In the latest round of labor talks Tuesday in New York, the NHLPA received a counterproposal from owners that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman classified to reporters in New York as “significant, with meaningful movement" designed to create traction between the two sides. Whether the union agrees with that assessment remains to be seen, though.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr declined to elaborate on what portions differed in the owners’ latest proposal, but said that it is “a proposal we intend to respond to.”
The two sides are scheduled to meet again Wednesday afternoon but the clock is ticking. The NHL has said it will lock out players if a new agreement isn’t reached before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15.
While officials on both sides continue to discuss and debate various collective bargaining details, players continue to prepare for a 2012-13 season that they hope will start sooner rather than later.
Six Capitals – Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, Michal Neuvirth, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Stanislav Galiev – as well as Maryland native and current New York Ranger Jeff Halpern worked out at KCI Tuesday morning with the focus of being ready for training camps to open the weekend of Sept. 21.
“What I’m doing right now is just going about a normal summer,” said Halpern, who will head to New York at the end of the week to join his Rangers teammates in workouts. Halpern, 36, who previously served as an NHLPA representative in Washington and Tampa Bay, said that these negotiations have a different tone than the lead up to the 2004-05 lockout when the main issue was the creation of a salary cap.
“There wasn’t even any talk at this point [in 2004]. There were a lot bigger issues on the table and players were already starting to figure out plans for the season,” Halpern said.
“Really, the things that we’re discussing now are a lot different than [eight] years ago,” Halpern said. “There were major fundamental changes that happened in the last one. Right now we’re talking about percentages and dividing revenues. Those things — it should be easier to talk through those things than it was [to talk] through major shifts in the landscape of the CBA.”
Unlike Halpern, Carlson didn’t experience the previous work stoppage firsthand. The 22-year-old defenseman said he’s turned to Halpern for additional insight on the situation.
“As a younger guy I think that I have a lot to learn and a lot to be a part of,” Carlson said. “I haven’t been completely proactive about it but I always try to see what’s going on and keep track of things.”
Carlson added that although he’s trying to prepare as he normally would, it’s hard to truly distance himself from all the CBA discussions and a possible lockout.
“Obviously it’s in the back of everyone’s mind,” Carlson said. “Whether you’re a player, coach, owner, GM fan, media, everybody. We put our trust into what we have and we feel strongly about it.”
Halpern may not be as closely involved in the negotiations this time around, but he expressed a great deal of support for Fehr’s ability to lead the union through this CBA process.
“Not only do I have a ton of confidence in Don Fehr, but speaking with him, seeing how he approaches these negotiations and how he responds to the players, I have a ton of faith in him,” Halpern said. “I know that any decision he makes or anything that’s brought to the table – not just from his track record in baseball but the way he’s gone about his business with the hockey union — my hands are pretty much in his decisions.
“He’s left it up to the players the entire time. He’s stated that he works for the players, not the other way around. I think everyone that’s kept up on negotiations has a ton of belief and faith in what he’s doing.”