SBD/September 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

No New Talks Scheduled Between NHL, NHLPA As Expiration Of CBA Gets Closer

The NHL and NHLPA “have not scheduled further talks" regarding a new CBA, and neither side “speculated as to when talks could resume” following their last meeting Friday, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. Both the league and the union indicated that before the Labor Day weekend they were “open to resuming discussions should either side have something new to ... but neither camp has picked up the phone.” Talks “broke down last week after the union countered the league's second proposal with what the NHL found to be an unsatisfactory response.” The standoff between the two sides “makes a work stoppage all but certain” when the current CBA expires on Sept. 15 (ESPNNY.com, 9/4). CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty wrote, “Most with an understanding of the NHL labor issues -- both overt and underlying -- expected this moment to arrive.” However, that “didn’t make it any more disheartening” (CSNNE.com, 9/1). In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote, “This dispute was predictable the moment the NBA and NFL won concessions that dropped players' salaries to 47% of agreed-upon revenues in the case of the NFL and to 50% in the case of the NBA” (L.A. TIMES, 9/2).

WASTING VALUABLE TIME: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote, “In hindsight, the NHL wasted more than a month of everybody’s time in labor negotiations.” It is “now clear” the NHL’s first proposal was a “downright insult.” Shinzawa: “The NHLPA needed more than a month to study the proposal and counter it. [Last] Tuesday, the NHL filed its second proposal, which should have been its initial offer.” Player agent Paul Krepelka said, “The owners’ initial proposal was way out of whack. It didn’t serve any purpose whatsoever. It was ridiculous and detrimental to the process. It set a bad tone to the negotiations” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/2). Senators D Chris Phillips said, “From where we started, basically we started with the current system and we’ve negotiated down from that.” He added, “From their side, they came at us with a fictitious number (in their first proposal) that was out of line and made some concessions from that. I thought (the NHLPA’s offer) would spur on more talks because those are real numbers we’re talking about and giving up dollars on that, but I guess not.” Phillips: “After we went back to them on Friday and made concessions ... it didn’t seem to get us anywhere” (OTTAWA SUN, 9/5). Canucks C Manny Malhotra, a member of the NHLPA’s bargaining committee, said, “Whether it's a scare tactic or wanting to push us into a move has yet to be seen. Nothing changes from our side. We're pretty strong in knowing we put forth a very good proposal. When they said they put forth a meaningful proposal back in our direction, you kind of take that with a grain of salt” (VANCOUVER SUN, 9/5).

FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
: SI.com’s Allan Muir wrote no matter "how often they've heard the term since the last lockout," the players are "not partners with the league." Muir: "They're a means to an end. And they don't have the guns to win this fight.” There is no doubt the NHLPA has changed since Exec Dir Donald Fehr took office, but “none of that really matters.” If they “want to play hockey this year, it's up to the players -- many of whom suffered through this same charade seven years ago -- to change their approach” (SI.com, 8/31). In Montreal, Jack Todd wrote under the header, “Bettman Is Neighbourhood Bully In NHL Talks.” Todd: “Bettman is like a bully neighbour who knocks on your door and says he’s going to be taking your house, your wife, your kids, your cars and your dog. ... Two weeks later, the neighbour is back. Just to prove what a nice guy he is, he says, he’s willing to make concessions. He’s still going to take the house, the wife, the kids and the cars -- but this time, he’s willing to let you keep the dog and live in the basement” (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/3). However, in Dallas, Mike Heika wrote, “The problem is that the NHL is attempting to [use] economic force to get the cutbacks it wants, and the NHLPA might be well prepared to weather that storm." Because the league "did so well last season, players will receive money back that they placed in an escrow account last season.” Players are “expected to get about eight percent of last year’s salary back in a one-lump sum in October,” which will “make the economic impact of a lockout sting a little less.” It also will “allow the NHLPA to ponder the fact the league will start feeling economic pressure around the beginning of December” (DALLASNEWS.com, 9/4). In Illinois, Barry Rozner noted Fehr “knows this isn’t a fight between the players and owners.” This is a “fight between owners, big market and small” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 9/4).

HOLDING OUT FOR HOPE: SI.com’s Stu Hackel wrote there are "some reasons to hope that the two sides can find a way to an agreement," but it is "based on a couple of assumptions." A lot of "whatever optimism remains has to do with what we don’t know.” That includes whether both sides "are actually trying to make an agreement and not force a work stoppage" and the "real positions of the two sides." However, if one of the sides “really wants a work stoppage, there is no hope” (SI.com, 9/4).

FULL OF FIGHT
: Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin said of a possible lockout, “We’re ready, and we’re not gonna give up.” He added, “I think it’s not fair for us. They still make money, they still sell tickets and they have money. Why do they sign us (to) long-term deals and that kind of money that when the CBA’s going to be done, they want to cut our salary? Why do they want to cut 24 (percent)? Why don’t they want to cut a hundred percent of salary?” Ovechkin said, “I don’t think we’re close enough to make a deal.” Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom said of Fehr, “He’s doing a great job. I think he wants to communicate and make the league better for both partners. That’s something that the NHL doesn’t want to do, I think” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/5). Red Wings RW Dan Cleary said, “It’s disappointing. You try to be optimistic but it seems like the clock is ticking” (DETROIT NEWS, 9/5). Hurricanes D Tim Gleason “didn’t sound very optimistic.” He said, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/5).

CHANGE OF DATE
: ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun cites sources as saying that the NHL has “proposed to the NHLPA to have free agency start July 10 instead of the long-standing July 1 opening day.”  LeBrun wrote, “For years, many of us have talked about how silly it was for the NHL to conduct some of its biggest business on July 1, a national holiday in hockey-mad Canada, and just a few days from the July 4 U.S. holiday. Talk about not maximizing your coverage for big signings.” However, that is “small potatoes compared to the big economic issues both sides are arguing about” (ESPN.com, 9/4).
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