SBD/August 10, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bettman Declares NHL Will Lock Out Players If No New CBA Is Reached By Sept. 15

Bettman said the Sept. 15 deadline should not shock the NHLPA
The vast differences between the NHL and NHLPA on major financial issues became more clear Thursday after a meeting in N.Y. that lasted less than two hours. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said after the meeting that the league has “no intention” of playing another season under the current CBA, which expires on Sept. 15. “The owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season,” said Bettman. Training camps for the ‘12-13 season do not open until a few days after Sept. 15, but it is expected that the NHL will lock out the players that day if an agreement is not finalized. “This isn’t news,” said Bettman. “The union has been told this repeatedly for the last 9-12 months.” NHLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said there was a “meaningful gulf” between the owners’ proposal of three weeks ago, which called for a cut in the players’ share of revenue from 56% to 47%. The players responded to the proposal in Thursday's meeting with Bettman and the owners. Fehr said of the league’s proposal, “It didn’t look to us like the way to go. It seems to us that, overall and on a club-by-club basis, all of the revenue-sharing payments -- both the new ones and the existing ones -- would be paid for by player salary reductions” (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).

THE NEXT STEP: The CP's Chris Johnston wrote Bettman's statement "makes next week's meetings in Toronto particularly important," as Fehr is "expected to deliver the union's first official proposal on Tuesday." It "won't look anything like the one the NHL handed over July 13." The union "found very little, if anything, it liked in that document, which called for a lowering of the players' share in revenue, introduced new contract restrictions and called for an extended entry-level system." The players "will seek is a broadening of the revenue-sharing system between teams." Fehr on Thursday raised that issue "as a way to illustrate why the NHLPA wasn't in favour of the league's proposal" (CP, 8/9). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang noted with Fehr's return to the negotiating table Thursday, "the two sides dove back into the core economic issues." The NHLPA "made a presentation on the league's proposed new revenue-sharing system, voicing concerns that the players would bear the brunt of concessions with salary givebacks" (ESPNNY.com, 8/9). Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen said, "We're trying to make sense of what they need and what they want. ... Our proposal is a good proposal. With our proposal we feel we'll be closer to getting that agreement done" (TAMPABAY.com, 8/9).

CLOCK IS TICKING: On Long Island, Arthur Staple writes Thursday's meeting "showed why a third lockout in 18 years seems likely" (NEWSDAY, 8/10). In N.Y., Mark Everson writes Bettman "started the clock, now 36 days until NHL Lockout III." Bettman said that his declaration "is nothing new." But he "chose to make it without prompting, indicating its import" (N.Y. POST, 8/10). Also in N.Y., Kristie Ackert writes, "It may not be breaking news that there is a deadline, but the decision to point it out to the union and then mention it to reporters seems to be a turn in the negotiations to a more serious tone" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/10). In Calgary, Wes Gilbertson writes, "It might not be news to the players' association, but it certainly isn't what hockey fans across North America want to hear" (CALGARY SUN, 8/10). In N.Y., Jeff Klein writes after the talks "turned sour Thursday," the prospect of "a lockout delaying the NHL season, already a strong probability before Thursday, now seems stronger" (NYTIMES.com, 8/9).

HOW LONG WILL THIS ONE LAST? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts asks now that Bettman "ripped the scales of optimism from too many eyes about an NHL lockout, the only question is how long will it be?" The players and owners are "oceans apart on the key, and perhaps only, issue -- whether the money needed to close the gap between the league's rich and not-so-rich teams has to come out of the players' pockets or through revenue-sharing." Shoalts: "No one should count on seeing any NHL games before the new year" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/10). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes there is "really no good guy or bad guy this time, not like there appeared to be the last time when the NHL somehow convinced fans in smaller markets that they were fighting the good fight to save those teams and make them more competitive." The NHL "knows it can cancel months of play and the fans will just come back and pay higher ticket prices." The league also "knows Bettman can keep the owners together, and keep them quiet." NHL owners will "only believe the players will stick together if they stick together when they're not getting paid." Cox: "We're probably two months away, or maybe three, from serious talks really beginning" (TORONTO STAR, 8/10).

BETTMAN'S LEGACY: In Montreal, Pat Hickey asks, "Will Bettman be remembered as the ... commissioner who raised revenues to record levels?" Or as the man "who presided over three work stoppages?" Hickey: "The latter appears more likely." Bettman's comments "sound eerily similar to his 2005 call for 'cost certainty' but it's difficult to reconcile the owners' call for concessions when they have created the problem with wanton free-agency signings, long front-loaded contracts and insane signing bonuses" (Montreal GAZETTE, 8/10).
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