SBD/November 9, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 55: League, Union Exchange Proposals; Sides Will Meet Again Friday

The NHL and NHLPA, for the first time since talks resumed earlier this week, "broke their silence" Thursday and although "neither side offered much insight into the state of negotiations, it appears progress has been made," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. A source said that the union "offered two proposals Wednesday, one on revenue sharing and another on the 'make-whole' concept to honor existing player contracts." Additionally, a source said that the union's "make-whole" proposal "includes a phase-in element that would see the players' share drop to 50-50 of revenue by Year 3 based on 'regular' growth." The source said that the NHL "responded to the proposals Thursday ... although it's not immediately clear how receptive it was to the union's ideas, if at all." There had been a "mounting sense that Thursday was a make-or-break point of negotiations." The sides met for "more than five hours and will meet again Friday." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr also indicated that the union "would be willing to meet this weekend, if necessary" (ESPNNY.com, 11/8). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes Fehr declined to discuss the negotiations "but sounded a note of highly guarded optimism." Eight players and at least one owner, the Bruins' Jeremy Jacobs, "were present for Thursday's talks." Jacobs also is the league's BOG Chair (N.Y. TIMES, 11/9).

DOWN TO THE DOLLAR: In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes the players are "believed to have offered a 'soft landing' -- three years -- to come down to a 50-50 split on hockey related revenue," to which the NHL "didn’t react well." The league "wants 50-50 in Year 1." But if the players’ revenue share is reduced to 50%, "paying players in full would be difficult unless there is a mechanism outside the salary cap to do so." And a lockout-shortened season "only adds to salary constraints" (TORONTO STAR, 11/9). In N.Y., Larry Brooks notes even allowing for a make-whole that would "cover existing contracts, an immediate dive to 50/50 would create a situation for 2013-14 under which there would be extremely limited cap space remaining to sign the approximately 250 players who are due to become free agents next summer." The NHLPA presented a proposal "targeted to hard dollars under which the percentage would drop to approximately 51 percent of hockey-related revenue (HRR) in Year 3 and close to 50 percent in Year 4 depending upon the rate of annual revenue growth." Sources said that the union has "made it clear to the league the players will not accept a cut in pay as a result of their overall share dropping from last year’s 57-percent of HRR." The NHL has "rejected all previous union initiatives that were based on hard dollars and growth-rate projections rather than on straight percentages." The two sides also "remain separated by a wide gulf regarding changes to systemic issues proposed by the league, most notably including salary arbitration and free agency eligibility" (N.Y. POST, 11/9). CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty noted the "make-whole" provision would "reduce the players' share of HRR to 50.3 percent in Year 3 of the deal assuming only 6.1 percent HRR growth" (CSNNE.com, 11/8).

ISSUES HANGING IN THE BALANCE: In Columbus, Michael Arace writes under the header, "Revenue Sharing Vital For NHL Deal." Arace: "There are other issues, as well, but nothing that could derail negotiations. Nothing, that is, outside of revenue sharing. Are the rich owners willing to prop up their less-fortunate cohorts? That is the question." Fehr has "long held that more meaningful revenue sharing is the key to having a healthier league, top to bottom." It was his "mantra when he led the baseball union" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/9). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Craig Custance noted throughout these negotiations, the league "has shown little to no appetite to include amnesty or buyouts as part of the next CBA." Many of the rosters "currently constructed are the result of long-term planning under a system that could soon be obsolete." Custance: "We don't know what the cap number is going to be. We don't even know for sure how salaries will be counted against the cap." The new CBA may "end up unraveling years of planning and preparation of some teams" (ESPN.com, 11/8).

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE CBA?
In L.A., Lisa Dillman cites a source as saying that the talks "were not just slow but 'very slow'" (L.A. TIMES, 11/9). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch cites sources as saying that the two sides "aren't close to a deal and if they're going to get one in place it's going to take several more days." The source said, "At least they're into a meaningful negotiations for once in this process" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/9). In Minneapolis, Michael Russo cited a source as saying that the meetings "have been 'constructive' and there's been 'some progress.'" The hope is they "continue to meet and grind this out rather than having any more blow ups and dark periods because it's become quite obvious that the objective here is to start the season by Dec.1" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 11/8). In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless wrote the two sides are "moving the rock up the hill, be it ever so slowly." They may "get to the top but there is still a chance they slip and it rolls right over them on its way back to the bottom" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 11/8). In Buffalo, John Vogl notes if Friday's negotiations "fail to lead toward a compromise, though, it's possible the meetings could stop again" (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/9).

JUST BETWEEN US...: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun cites a source as saying that the NHLPA "wasn't impressed" by the NHL's response on Thursday to its proposals. But LeBrun noted both sides "didn't blow out of the room and hammer each other on the head through the media." There is an "actual back and forth happening." It is what "should have happened a month ago, maybe two month ago, but the pressure of two months' worth of canceled games has finally pushed each side to stop the posturing and actually have meaningful negotiation." LeBrun: "This could still fall apart, but I'm ready to state that I believe there's a better chance of a deal getting done than not at this stage" (ESPN.com, 11/8). Penguins C Sidney Crosby on Thursday before the meetings said, "We're talking, and I think as long as that continues, it's got to be considered positive. When was the last time talks went this long?" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/9). Bruins LW Shawn Thornton: "They're talking and nobody's walking out of the room. You have to look at that as a positive" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/9).

SCHEDULE PLANNING: In Detroit, Gregg Krupa notes if the sides "keep talking a lot privately and not much publicly, they could reach an agreement in the next few weeks." That timing "might provide for a 70-game schedule" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/9). Also in Detroit, Helene St. James notes the NHL already has “ruled out the feasibility of completing a full 82-game schedule,” and players now "wonder what the league will try to push through should an agreement materialize this month.” There is a “very real fear that a schedule that would have to be packed regularly with four games a week could send a wave of players to sick bay.” Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall said, “There’d obviously be a lot more games played each week. You’d also have an injury factor. You don’t want to have guys going down, and then all of a sudden you’re hurting the product you put on the ice. So I think you also have to be a little bit cautious.” He added, “Of course, everyone wants to play as many games as possible, there’s no doubt about that. But at the same time, you have to be realistic, too, and kind of get an understanding for how much the body can take” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/9).

RADIO SILENCE: In N.Y., Pat Leonard wrote, "This clandestine bargaining has put the media in a unique position: To provide daily, sometimes hourly updates (thanks, Twitter) on hockey's most crucial week of negotiations with hardly any on-the-record quotes -- few off-the-record, also -- from anyone inside or outside the bargaining room." In some ways, this "absence of media intervention finally has moved the spotlight onto an important fact: what's holding up a deal is not the media's recounting of the NHL's and union's viewpoints; it's the league and the players' association themselves" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 11/8).
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