Lockout an unavoidable backdrop to Hall of Fame inductions

November 13, 2012

(Louis Lanzano/Associated Press) “Even in difficult times, we find ourselves reassured to be here to recognize ultimate achievements on the ice,” Gary Bettman said in his speech at the Hall of Fame inductions.

The hockey world gathered to celebrate Adam Oates, Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure and Mats Sundin being enshrined in the Hall of Fame Monday night. It’s an event to honor legacies and listen to stories from concluded playing careers, but like everything else this fall it also featured the unavoidable backdrop of the NHL lockout.

Tuesday marks the 59th day of the lockout, which has already resulted in cancellation of roughly a quarter of the 2012-13 regular season. Talks appear to have stalled again – no meetings were planned as of Tuesday morning — following a brief meeting Sunday that left both sides at a loss for how to move forward.

So where do things stand now? Speaking at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference in Toronto Monday, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said that the two sides are “fairly close” on revenue sharing but outlined three significant issues where plenty of contention remains.

• Dollars, aka how to split the hockey related revenue. The two sides have agreed, at least momentarily, to a 50-50 split. “The only question is over what period of time and what’s the transition method,” said Fehr, the brother of NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.

• Player contracting rights. The league has proposed to introduce five-year term limits, later unrestricted free agent eligibility and shorter rookie contract lengths. “It’s kind of hard to believe anyone’s going to drive the industry bus off a cliff over things like that,” Fehr said.

• How to adjust any agreement to what will be, at best, a shortened 2012-13 regular season. “How does it affect your proposals this year in terms of who pays for what,” Fehr said.

That said, Fehr made an interesting statement about something he and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly agree upon. That whenever the timing is right, it won’t take long to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly when that moment will occur.

The top officials from both sides – Don and Steve Fehr, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly — were in Toronto for the Hall of Fame festivities and tried to keep a low profile. But that’s tough to do, even if you avoid the red carpet, when everyone in attendance was wondering whether there will be NHL games played this year.

Bettman addressed the crowd at the induction ceremony, as he typically does, but the moment was wrought with awkwardness, particularly as he alluded to the lockout.

“Being here in this great Hall, the sanctuary of our game, celebrates everything that is good and right about hockey,” Bettman said in his speech. “Even in difficult times, we find ourselves reassured to be here to recognize ultimate achievements on the ice. All of us, fans, teams and players, look forward to the time the game returns there.”

 

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