NHL lockout: Negotiations sour after week of meetings

After a four consecutive days of lengthy meetings in New York this week, the NHL and NHLPA appear no closer to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement than they were months ago. In addition to the lack of significant progress, the talks devolved once again Friday as both sides showed frustration and went back to their old ways of spinning the public message. 

Where things go from here is unclear. The league left it up to the union to determine when the sides would meet next, and it’s possible they do so Saturday but to get caught up on all the he said, he said going on here’s what you should be reading. 

•Mid-day Friday a memo surfaced that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr had sent to players Thursday night. In the leaked memo, Fehr wrote that “a significant gap remains” on several key issues such as the “make whole” provision, the immediate reduction in HRR and contracting rights. The full memo can be found at TSN

•After talks ended Friday the StarTribune’s Michael Russo, a long-tenured and well-respected hockey writer, reported that the league “feels the memo isn’t a fair portrayal of what the owners offered” as the owners became concerned, once again, of the message Fehr is relaying to players.  

From Russo:

The league has been under the impression that the majority of players are ready to get back onto the ice if revenues are split 50/50 and all contracts are honored in full. Several players have told the Star Tribune that in recent days.
 
That’s exactly what the owners have offered the players, the sources say, something Fehr did not spell out in his memo. I have an email into the NHLPA asking if I can talk with Fehr or confirm what I’m about to report below.
 
The league has promised to honor all existing contracts and guarantee players their $1.883 billion share – or 57 percent of last year’s revenue, the sources say.
 
In exchange for going to 50/50 immediately, players would have the reduced part of their salaries (12.3 percent) deferred one or two years, “and the owners will pay them back, plus interest, and it would not go against their share and the league is guaranteeing it no matter where the revenue of the league goes,” said one of the sources.
 

•Russo’s report created a buzz across the hockey world. Players around the league quickly dismissed the notion that Fehr isn’t being up front with them about offers tabled by the league. On Saturday, Alex Ovechkin took to Twitter to respond to the criticisms directed toward Fehr. 

 

When he met with reporters Friday night, Fehr refuted the accusations himself. (Check out the video of his press conference here.)

“Understand that their proposal is made in front of players, in the room, who hear it. It’s made in front of staff who hears it. It’s made in front of former players who hear it. They’re on the phone talking to everybody on an on-going basis afterward,” Fehr told reporters in New York. “Owners can’t come to meetings when they want to if they want to hear stuff directly but every single player can, at the union’s expense, come and hear for himself, make the judgement and all the rest of it. That pretty much speaks for itself, I think.” 

•CBC’s Elliotte Friedman offers some much-needed context to this latest round of accusations and details how Fehr “is driving the NHL and its bargaining team crazy”.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun breaks down what the league is offering with its “make whole” provision: 

Sources on both sides confirmed to ESPN.com that the league’s Make Whole offer — an attempt to honor players’ existing contracts — amounts to $211 million of guaranteed money ($149 million in Year 1 and $62 million in Year 2, both deferred in payment by one year and payable with interest). The league’s belief is that by Year 3 of the deal, revenues will have likely grown enough that at 50 percent of HRR the players shouldn’t face much if any salary erosion in escrow. At which one NHLPA source countered, what if the revenues don’t grow that much? Then what? The union says in that case players aren’t made whole on their contracts. 
 
Listen, the league’ $211 million Make Whole offer is not anything to sniff at;
it’s a tangible move on the league’s part. But it’s still nowhere close to where the NHLPA would be willing to sign off on. Try about $600 million or so. That might do it. 
 
At $211 million, the NHLPA doesn’t feel that comes close to making players “whole” on current contracts. 
 
“It’s not make whole — it’s make partial,” said one player via text.

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