NHL lockout: Optimism gives way to sense of dread

Promising day ends with the two sides ‘still far apart’

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 22, 2012 

The NHL Players Association made its most complete collective bargaining pitch Wednesday, as requested by the NHL.

The NHL then rejected it, leaving the talks stalled, everyone disappointed and the 2012-2013 season in peril.

The day began with promise, with the NHLPA offering a comprehensive, six-page proposal on collective bargaining issues. But it ended with the negotiations still stalemated and with no end in sight to the lockout.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said he was not sure what the next move would be or when the next meetings would be held.

“On the big things there was, as of (Wednesday), no reciprocity in any meaningful sense,” Fehr told reporters.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman conceded “there was some movement in our direction” with the proposal but it was cautionary.

“We’re still far apart,” he said. “But hopefully there’s some momentum so we can bring this to a conclusion.”

Bettman said the league was losing $18 million a day in revenue, but refused to set a deadline on when the season would have to be canceled.

Talking to the media at a noon break, Fehr confirmed the union no longer was insistent on a fixed financial guarantee, or “fixed target” – the players received more than $1.8 billion last season – but would agree to accept a percentage of hockey-related revenue.

Fehr said the two sides were $182 million apart over the course of a proposed five-year provision for honoring existing contracts.

The league is seeking to reduce the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent under the old agreement to 50 percent – in line with the percentage players in the NBA and NFL agreed to in their new agreements. The union had proposed gradually reducing the players’ share to 50 percent.

The league had proposed to “make whole” the contracts through deferred compensation, offering to move $211 million from its hockey-related revenue share to fund it. The union wanted that total raised to $393 million over four years.

Details of the proposal show that the breakdown on “make whole” was $182 million in 2012-2013, then $128 million the next season, $72 million in the third year and $11 million in the fourth. That would put the split at 50-50 in the fourth year.

Under the NHLPA proposal, in years two through five the players’ share of the revenue would not be lower than the previous year.

Fehr said the proposal “was about as good as we can do.”

The union proposed $200 million in revenue sharing based on $3.3 billion in hockey-related revenue. The figure would vary from year to year.

On contracting issues, the union did not make a proposal on contract lengths or free agency.

The union offered to do away with front-loaded, back-diving contracts. That would apply to existing contracts nine years or longer and any signed under the new agreement.

It also proposed that players making more than $1 million who are in the American Hockey League be counted against their NHL team’s cap, ending the practice of teams circumventing the cap by “hiding” high-salary players in the minors.

The NHL players have been locked out since Sept. 15 and the league has canceled 327 games, including the 2013 Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

After a players’ skate Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Penguins star Sidney Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “We’re making a move in their direction, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t consider it. …

“We wanted progress, but it takes both sides.

The Canadian Press reported Wednesday that the NHLPA sent a letter Monday to the Canadian parliament outlining its position on the lockout and offering an update on negotiations.

The letter said, in part, “The players understand the selfishness of the owners’ position all too well. Countless people – from league and team employees, to hockey fans, to small business owners and their workers – are suffering unnecessarily as a result.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service