SBD/October 19, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 34: League Rejects All Three Proposals Made By NHLPA

Prospects for a "prompt end to the NHL lockout all but vanished Thursday after Commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed a new players union proposal as 'a step backward,'" according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. Bettman, after an hour-long meeting at the union's Toronto HQs, said, “It’s clear we’re not speaking the same language. I’m very discouraged.” NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that the union "presented three counteroffers Thursday, each of which would eventually lead to a 50-50 revenue split, and league officials reacted dismissively." Fehr: "All three proposals were rejected in their entirety. The vibe in the room was, ‘Unless you’re prepared to sign with very few changes, don’t bother us.'" But Bettman "described the offers differently." He said, "None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time." Klein notes the Jan. 1 Winter Classic "could be canceled as soon as this week." Bettman: "It takes a lot of time to put together the Winter Classic, and we’re going to have to revisit it" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes the players' three proposals "reflect their position that there should be no reduction for players who signed contracts believing they'd receive that money." They said that their offers "go down to a 50-50 split over time, but start with the premise that they won't accept fewer dollars than last season." The players' third proposal "was to go to 50-50 right away, with owners honoring players' current contracts." But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said of the third offer, "It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56% to 57% deal in Year One and never gets to 50% during the proposed five-year term of the agreement" (USA TODAY, 10/19).

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: Fehr said of the owners' reaction to the offers: "They don’t think about it very much. They don’t analyze it and they don’t talk to the other owners. They take less than 10 minutes. Maybe it was 15 minutes. We have a meeting and we’re told two things. All three proposals are rejected in their entirety. And secondly, the proposal that we recently got is their best offer and they might be willing to tweak it around the edges" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/19). Bettman said, "This is the best offer that we have to make." Fehr: "The players offered to make real a concession in terms of reducing their share of [hockey related revenue], with some small degree of protection. The players don't see any reason to take less in terms of dollars" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/19). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes Bettman "sounded like a defeated man" after the meeting. A league source said that the players "worked their way to a 50-50 split in all three proposals but none included any guarantees, which is why it took a grand total of 15 minutes to dismiss them" (OTTAWA SUN, 10/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes Bettman "was seething," and the "anger practically vibrated from him." But the "players, in turn, responded with their own anger." Fehr was "more equanimous than Bettman when he faced the media but he was no less gloomy." The "only glimmer of hope is that both the players and owners appear to agree a 50-50 split is the ultimate goal" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell also notes Bettman was "visibly disturbed by the turn of events." In addition, Fehr showed his "very sharp teeth for the first time since taking over the hockey union." There was "no shortage of sniping from both heads of state, who were flanked by their most powerful allies on the ownership and player sides" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/18). Below is a list of the players and owners that attended the negotiating session:

NHL PLAYERS IN ATTENDANCE
Penguins RW Craig Adams Oilers C Shawn Horcoff
Islanders RW Brad Boyes Flames RW Jarome Iginla
Flames C Mike Cammalleri Sabres D Robyn Regehr
Canadiens D Chris Campoli Hurricanes C Eric Staal
Devils RW David Clarkson Flames C Matt Stajan
Red Wings RW Dan Cleary Bruins LW Shawn Thornton
Red Wings D Carlo Colaiacovo Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews
Penguins C Sidney Crosby Kings RW Kevin Westgarth
Canadiens LW Mathieu Darche Ducks C Dan Winnik
Coyotes RW Shane Doan  
NHL OWNERS IN ATTENDANCE
Bruins' Jeremy Jacobs Capitals' Ted Leonsis
Wilds' Craig Leipold Flames' Murray Edwards

THIRD TIME NOT A CHARM: In N.Y., Larry Brooks notes the essential economic dispute "can be distilled to approximately $650 million-$700 million within existing contracts the NHLPA expects the owners to honor." Fehr said, "We've shown we're willing to work to reduce the level of compensation over time, but we believe existing contracts should be fulfilled" (N.Y. POST, 10/19). In Montreal, Pat Hickey writes the third proposal by the union "seems to be the fairest because, at its heart, the players are asking the owners" to honor the individual contracts they have signed. Fehr suggested that this "was a hastily cobbled idea and that he hadn't run the numbers" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/19). A league source said that the third offer "was not a formal proposal and was instead discussed out loud in complicated fashion and not as 50-50" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 10/18). In Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson writes the third proposal "might prove most intriguing and addresses a union concern that several long-term, high-priced contracts signed in the offseason were done with the idea that owners would get a break on them under a new CBA." Fehr said, "We think it makes a lot of sense. We think it really is fair. It couldn't be more balanced" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/19). The CBC's Elliotte Friedman wrote in the third proposal, the "path was revealed." Looking at it, there is "something that makes sense." Sixty percent of the players "have contracts beyond this season, and by making that offer, the NHLPA essentially said, 'We have two kinds of members -- signed players and free agents. They should be handled differently'" (CBC.ca, 10/18).

LESSON IN ARITHMETIC: SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote the "problem with that third proposal from the NHL's standpoint is that the owners cannot honor the existing contracts and still have a 50-50 split of revenue without actually increasing what they pay the players unless they somehow withhold some of the payment on those existing contracts" (SI.com, 10/18). Daly said, "The union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not. The union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did." Blues C David Backes "did not disagree with Daly." Backes: "We think that we can get to that 50-50 number, but those (existing) contracts should be honored. I don't think (Daly's) comments are incorrect by any means, but we're saying those contracts should be honored" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/19). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika asked: "The leaders haven't run the numbers yet on their best-sounding offer so far? What do the rank and file think about that? Did the rank and file press the leadership to make that proposal during that last-minute conference call Thursday? Is that why the negotiating session was delayed?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/18). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted for the "first time in this entire process dating back to last June, the players made official offers that included the numbers '50-50' in them." That is a "baby step if for no other reason than the NHLPA being willing to use the same mathematical vernacular as the NHL when it comes to splitting up HRR." Now comes the "tougher part: both sides agreeing what is really 50-50 of HRR and, most importantly, agreeing on how to get there without shortchanging the players under contract in the opening years of the new CBA" (ESPN.com, 10/18).

ARE THEY CLOSE? CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote the "simple fact both sides are already discussing '50/50' as a destination point means Bettman and Fehr are closer than the hand-wringing rhetoric and verbal venom would make it appear" (CSNNE.com, 10/18). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes for all the "histrionics coming out of the meetings on Thursday, this much is undeniable: The players have tabled an offer that eventually takes them to a 50-50 share under reasonable circumstances, matching what the owners offered in at least one year of the agreement." It "ain't much, but ... it's something." Meanwhile, the union has "done a poor job of accurately explaining how their proposals function." The "vast majority of the media at the press conference on Thursday had no clue what the PA had proposed when Fehr finished speaking -- and that confusion carried over to the fans shortly thereafter." There "seems to be a belief on the players' side that once ownership gets a revenue split it can live with, these other issues will fall by the wayside, but I doubt that's the case at all." Bettman "intends to get a term limit and a couple other concessions beyond the money -- and a complete refusal to negotiate on those issues could kill the season on their own" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Campbell wrote the players "are willing to do their part, but want no part of having the salaries on existing contracts cut by even one penny." The players are "clearly occupying the higher moral ground here." The owners, meanwhile, are "not making a single concession here." Everything they are proposing "is a claw back from the players." This is "going to get nasty now" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/18).
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