SBD/September 14, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout Deadline, Part I: Bettman Calls Out Union For Delay; Players Snap Back

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Gary Bettman says players should not feel they have a right to 57% of revenues
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday received a "unanimous vote from owners ... in support of a league-imposed lockout should no deal be reached by midnight ET Saturday," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. There are "no further meetings scheduled in advance of Saturday." In a "sign of solidarity, 283 players attended Thursday's meeting." Bettman said that a lockout "would impact the league's revenue and alter the dynamics of the business." He said, "Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary wages than what we're proposing to do to make a deal that we think we need to make" (ESPNNY.com, 9/13). The CP's Chris Johnston noted Thursday during a two-hour BOG meeting, Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "gave owners a detailed update on negotiations." Afterward, Bruins Owner & Board Chair Jeremy Jacobs "put forward a motion for governors to vote on imposing a lockout." Bettman said that it "passed unanimously" (CP, 9/13). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli notes Bettman "made it clear that he did not need approval to enact his third lockout on Sunday when the clock strikes midnight." Seravalli: "But he got it anyway. Solidarity duly noted in the league's meeting minutes" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/14). Bettman: "We've reviewed all of the proposals and counterproposals and discussions. And the board had very little discussion. Asked a couple of questions, and there was a complete show of support." When asked if he would speak with NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr before Saturday night, Bettman said, "I don't remember how we left it, as to whether or not he said he was going to call. Actually, we made the last offer. So I guess, other than what we may be reading in the blogosphere and twittersphere or what have you, we haven't gotten a formal response to our proposal. I'm hoping we get one" (NATIONAL POST, 9/14). Bettman also said that the players "should not feel they have an inalienable right to 57 percent of revenues, pointing again to recent deals in the NFL and NBA that have closer to a 50-50 split." Bettman: "We made a deal that we thought was fair (in 2005). It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/14).

PLAYERS RESPOND: The CP's Johnston cited a source as indicating that preseason games "will start being cancelled as soon as next week." Training camps scheduled to open Sept. 21 also will "soon be a casualty, with the first regular-season games not too far behind." The players who attended the meetings "emerged presenting a united front and spoke with the same calmness as Fehr, whom they hired in 2012 with the express purpose of getting a good deal in these negotiations" (CP, 9/13). In N.Y., Mark Everson notes no player vote "was taken to formally, or symbolically, reject the owners' Tuesday offer." But Wild LW Zach Parise said that no vote "was necessary." Parise: "There would be (283) no's. We're all on the same page" (N.Y. POST, 9/14). Bruins D Andrew Ference said that there was "no significant disagreement among players, which he chalked up to better education" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/14). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes while talks "remained deadlocked on Thursday," the rhetoric "certainly got more pointed." Bettman said, "We've been rebuffed at every turn." Parise said of Bettman, "He really loves his lockouts." Sabres G Ryan Miller "took a dim view of Bettman's stewardship." Miller: "Gary has basically run this business for 20 years, so if he's operated at a loss for how many of those years, how is he still in a position of leadership, or even have a job?" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). Miller added, "I doubt that all the owners are as well informed as all the players. I don't know if that's going to get me in trouble or not. I just feel like it's kind of whatever they are told by Gary" (AP, 9/14). Flames C Mike Cammalleri: "How do we win? We've already lost. We've already conceded ($800 million)" (TORONTO STAR, 9/14). Senators D Chris Phillips: "It sounds like [Bettman] doesn't want to get a deal done. ... He's trying to play the mean tough guy and I guess you have to call him on it." In Ottawa, Ken Warren notes there are "rumbling that not all owners are in full agreement with the NHL's formal stance" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/14).

READY FOR THE SPIN: In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless writes rather than bargain, the union and ownership "have been spending the final hours of the current agreement trying to spin their side of the story and curry public favour." Both sides "spent lots of time blaming the other for where they are today." Bettman said, "We went to the union last summer, a year ago, and said, 'We're ready to begin negotiations.' We were told, 'We're not ready. All-star (game).' All-star (game) we were told. 'We're not ready. Playoffs.' Playoffs we were told, 'No, Stanley Cup final.' We actually met, Bill and I, with Steve (Fehr, NHLPA special counsel) and Don on June 4 before Game 3 to give them a sense of where we thought we needed to go. Again, they said they weren't prepared to meet until June 29. Looking back in hindsight, it looks like there was no urgency on the part of the players' association to engage or get anything done." Fehr said, "We haven't ignored the owners -- far from it." He added, "I was asked the following question by the players a lot Wednesday and it came up (Thursday), and it is the most obvious question the proposals have covered, which is: What's in this for the players? What do they get out of this agreement? ... What's on the table now appears to say we have to have the salary concessions all over again, plus we have to go in the owners' direction on all the player-contracting issues and undo that portion of the last agreement. Less money, fewer rights" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 9/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes it was "a day of duelling news conferences, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." What became "immediately clear is how differently [the sides] view the future in terms of revenue projections" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes the "darts are starting to fly." Bettman "accused the union of not even wanting to make a deal." It is "hard to argue with Bettman on that one." The players' "tactic: stall, stall, stall, hoping the owners will agree to start the season while talks continue" (WINNIPEG SUN, 9/14).

SPOTLIGHT ON LEADERS: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes “so much of the rhetoric, particularly from the NHL side, is so much the same.” Fehr is “actually a fresh face and handles the media part of the job much better than did his predecessor, Bob Goodenow.” Bettman, as “skilful as he is at spinning a yarn, is just so much sameness to the fan.” Gallagher: “You would think that ultimately this might provide something of a turn-off factor for many fans, but every-one involved seems to think they'll be back to be financially soaked no matter what happens” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/14). The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman wrote Bettman’s presence “right here and right now ... is more of a roadblock than a bridge.” Despite the “craziness of this situation, there is room over the next couple of weeks to let someone else step in and see where we go” (CBC.ca, 9/13). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote if Bettman completes the deal, he will need to “begin looking for his successor.” The NHL “needs a new voice with new ideas and a different style” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 9/13). In Calgary, Scott Cruickshank notes Flames Owner Murray Edwards appears to have “grabbed a prominent role in collective-bargaining negotiations” and was a key figure in the last proposal. But Flames C and player rep Matt Stajan said that Edwards’ presence “is not an issue.” Stajan on Thursday said, “There’s a respect factor between us players and Murray. At the end of the day, we’re both just a fraction of the party.” He added, “I don’t think it will ruin (anything). When this is all done, there’s not going to be any bad blood between any players … and Murray Edwards, and vice versa” (CALGARY HERALD, 9/14).
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