With the tension building and the hockey season perhaps in the balance, the NHL and NHL Players Association met Thursday for a third straight day in New York.
The details of the collective bargaining negotiations again were kept private. But the CBA talks were believed to have centered on proposals made by the NHLPA on the division of hockey-related revenue and the honoring of existing contracts, and league-wide revenue-sharing.
Media reports out of New York said the union on Wednesday proposed reaching a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue (HRR) in the third year of a new CBA. The reports said the NHLPA also proposed $260 million a year in revenue-sharing to help financially stressed franchises.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr both briefly addressed the media after the five-hour Thursday meeting in Midtown Manhattan. Neither offered specifics about the talks but said the two sides would meet again Friday.
“We still have work to do,” Bettman told reporters. “My hope is we can achieve the goal of getting a long-term and fair agreement in place as quickly as possible.”
Many believe the meetings this week – the first formal CBA sessions since Oct. 18 – are critical in determining whether a hockey season will be played. The 2004-2005 season was canceled because of haggling over a CBA, and this year’s confrontation has been a duel of skilled negotiators – Bettman and Fehr, the former head of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
The players have been locked out by the league since Sept. 15, when the previous CBA expired. Thursday marked the 54th day of the lockout.
“Every day that passes is critical for the game and for our fans,” Bettman said.
Under the old CBA, the players received 57 percent of HRR last season, or $1.88 billion. The league’s most recent proposal, made last month, was for an immediate 50-50 split of revenue with a “make whole” provision in which existing player contracts would be honored by deferred compensation.
The league also has offered to increase revenue-sharing to roughly $200 million each year.
Thursday’s meeting was held at the Proskauer Rose law offices. The NHLPA said seven players attended the meeting, including Los Angles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, a member of the players’ negotiating committee who lives in Raleigh in the offseason.
The two sides met for almost 13 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday. Neither Bettman nor Fehr addressed the media after those meetings, an apparent attempt to tone down the rhetoric and reduce the rancor present at some of the previous meetings.
On Oct. 18, the union made three CBA proposals, including one that had the players’ revenue share reduced 50-50 percent in the third year. All three were rejected by the league in a matter of minutes.
The league has since canceled all regular-season games through the end of November and the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s believed if a CBA could be struck in the next week or so, the regular season might be able to start Dec. 1 and a 65- or 70-game season could be played.