Bettman: NHL, NHLPA ‘still far apart’

November 21, 2012

(Louis Lanzano/Associated Press)

NHL labor negotiations hit yet another roadblock Wednesday as the league rejected the NHLPA’s latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement.

“We’re still far apart,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in New York. “But hopefully there will have been some momentum from today’s session that we can build off of to hopefully, again hopefully, bring this process to a successful conclusion.”

The union’s offer included a shift from its previous proposals as it based the players’ share of hockey-related revenues on a percentage rather than a fixed amount. Hockey-related revenues would be split 50-50 in the first year of the players’ five-year proposal but asks that owners contribute $393 million for the “make whole” provision that ensures the value of existing contracts. The league’s original “make whole” offer was for $211 million. 

“On the big things there was, as of today, no reciprocity in any meaningful sense,” NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr told reporters in New York. “No movement on the players share, no movement on salary arbitration eligibility, no movement on free agency eligibility, no agreement on a pension plan.”

Check out the players’ full proposal here and some notable links below.

• Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik criticized Donald Fehr in an interview in his native Czech Republic. TV Nova’s Roman Jedlicka offered a translation on Twitter:

 “I am disgusted. We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost 1/4 season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr? There should be voting between player. Four questions – YES or NO – then count it. If half of players say lets play, then they should sign new CBA. If there is no season he should leave and we will find someone new. Time is our enemy.”

• Post columnist Thomas Boswell cautions the owners not to underestimate Donald Fehr

If hockey wants to avoid losing a second season under Commissioner Gary Bettman’s watch, it should widen its analysis from issues like “core economics” and “player contracting.” The NHL had better figure out Fehr, how he runs a union, what his strategies are and, especially, why baseball got crushed time after time. The subtext of these negotiations is the Fehr factor.

Long negotiations have key junctures — like Wednesday. One Fehr method is to identify moments of discovery when his union can determine the other side’s true intentions. The union pushes an aggressive proposal, one that usually addresses the concerns of moderate members in the union. That way, it either reaches an agreement soon or the membership toughens once it “discovers” that the actual strategy of the other side is a long fight.

•  The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle examines the key issues and where some of the differences remain between the two sides. 

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun breaks down the main points of the NHLPA’s proposal and why the league wouldn’t accept certain aspects of it. 

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman looks at how the players addressed the league’s concern about preventing back-diving contracts. 

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