NHL labor talks to resume Tuesday

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 16, 2012 

With the loss of more regular-season games looming and the players missing their first paychecks, the NHL and NHL Players Association will resume labor negotiations Tuesday in Toronto

A month into the NHL lockout, commissioner Gary Bettman again will face off with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. While no collective bargaining agenda has been announced, it’s likely the two sides will discuss the core economic issue that has been so contentious: the division of hockey-related revenue.

On Oct. 4, the NHL canceled the first two weeks of the regular season – 82 games in all – from Oct. 11 through Oct. 24. There’s speculation another block of games could be canceled this week by the league, possibly extending through the first week of November.

The NHLPA has maintained a unified front among the players. While several players have left for European leagues during the lockout – there are more than 30 NHL players in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League – no one has spoken out publicly against Fehr’s negotiating strategy or the union’s stance.

“All we can hope now is we get this thing solved as soon as possible,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen said Monday.

But can it be solved soon?

“It’s tough to say,” Jokinen said. “I think right now both sides are pretty far away. That’s the realistic part of this. I don’t think it’s looking too good right now.”

The players this week will receive their last escrow checks from the 2011-12 season – about 8.5 percent of their salaries. But they will not receive the first of their 13 paychecks for the 2012-13 season.

“Obviously it’s the way we make our living, and now paychecks are started to get missed,” Hurricanes defenseman Jamie McBain said Monday. “Hopefully we’re at that point where both sides have the urgency to get back to the table and get things moving forward, even if it’s little by little.”

There were media reports Monday the NHLPA may have a new offer to put on the table. The NHLPA has proposed small salary increases in the first three years of a five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement while calling for more significant team revenue-sharing.

Under the CBA that expired Sept. 15, the players received 57 percent of annual hockey-related revenue. The NHL first proposed reducing the players’ share to 43 percent, then altered its proposal to a graduated reduction, to 47 percent, over the course of a six-year CBA.

In 2004, the inability to approve a CBA resulted in a lockout and then the cancelation of the 2004-05 season. Bettman did not make that call until February 2005, but many now believe a decision by the commissioner to cancel the 2012-13 season could come at an earlier date.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, Donald Fehr’s brother and an NHLPA special counsel, also will be at Tuesday’s session in Toronto. Daly said last week the work stoppage has cost the league about $250 million.

Jokinen returned to Raleigh from Finland in early September, then signed an eight-game contract with Karpat of the Finnish Elite League after the NHL lockout began. Back in Raleigh again, he skated with some Hurricanes teammates Monday at Raleigh Center Ice.

The Hurricanes were scheduled to have opened the season Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets and were to continue the Canadian road trip with a Monday game against the Vancouver Canucks. Jokinen, after having a taste of competitive hockey, said he can only hope the CBA stalemate ends soon and the NHL is back on the ice.

“It’s very unfortunate for lots of people,” Jokinen said. “Lots of people can’t do their jobs right now, people in the hockey rinks. I feel like everybody is losing right now.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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