SBD/November 13, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 59: Steve Fehr Says Three Issues Remain In CBA Negotiations

NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr believes that a new NHL CBA "can be wrapped up in a hurry once the sides make a breakthrough in negotiations," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. Fehr yesterday during a panel discussion at the PrimeTime Sports & Entertainment Conference said, "One thing (deputy commissioner) Bill Daly and I agree upon is that when the moment is right the deal could be done very quickly. One day, three days or whatever." Reps from the NHL and NHLPA have "met seven of the last nine days, but no future talks are planned." Fehr told the panel that "three issues remain to be solved: the split of money, player contract rights and who pays for the damage caused by the lockout." Fehr and Daly "discussed the player rights issue during a meeting on Sunday afternoon." Fehr said that he "doesn't believe it will ultimately keep them from striking a deal." He said, "We're not making any real progress in those areas. It's kind of hard to believe anyone's going to drive the industry bus off a cliff over things like that, but I've seen things before that surprise me." On a "more positive note, he indicated that the sides were 'fairly close' to an agreement on revenue sharing." It is believed the NHL is "willing to bump the annual pot to $220 million from its current position of $140 million" (CP, 11/12). Daly said that as of last night there are "still no official bargaining talks scheduled." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr on Sunday after the last meeting between the two sides said that he "hoped talks would resume this week in Toronto." But ESPN.com's Burnside & LeBrun wrote at "this point, things appear to be on hold after the sides hit a snag once again" (ESPN.com, 11/12). CSNPHILLY.com's Tim Panaccio cites a source as saying, "The NHL is not ready to make a deal yet. Gary (Bettman) has a date in mind to play, and we're not there yet" (CSNPHILLY.com, 11/12).

CHILLY RECEPTION: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes during yesterday's Hockey HOF induction activities there was "a strong undercurrent of anger ... as the latest breakdown in labour negotiations was considered." Hockey HOF Chair Bill Hay "let his emotion show in his opening remarks at a luncheon" honoring The Globe & Mail’s Roy MacGregor and Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret. Hay mentioned NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who "was not able to attend, and then bit off the words, 'But I don’t have to introduce him,' his anger unmistakable." Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke yesterday at the PrimeTime conference was "kept silent by a gag order placed on NHL owners and managers by Bettman." However, he "clearly did a slow burn" when Steve Fehr said that the union and the NHL "are 'fairly close' to an agreement on revenue sharing and once there is a breakthrough in the chilly negotiations a new collective agreement can be put together quickly." Burke said of having to hold his tongue, "I know it’s painful for you guys watching this but I’ve got to sit here." Both Bettman and Donald Fehr declined to address the media at last night's HOF induction ceremony. Bettman’s annual address at the ceremony "was rather wooden and his reception was polite with gusts to cool, especially during a reference to the lockout as 'difficult times'" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/13). In Toronto, Chris Stevenson notes Fehr last night "walked the red carpet into the Hall and only stopped to say he wasn't talking to the media and might leave early to do some work." Bettman and Daly "must have come in a sidedoor because they weren't seen on the carpet." Because of the "last couple of months in which they have been justifiably criticized, it was [a] good move by the both of them -- the only move, really -- to keep a low profile and try and let the four honourees have the spotlight" (TORONTO SUN, 11/13).

GETTING FRUSTRATED: Penguins C Sidney Crosby said that he "sees a pattern" in collective bargaining between the NHL and NHLPA. Crosby said, "It's pretty one-sided. I don't really know what (the league owners) have given up, up to this point. ... Just waiting to hear something new from their side." He added, "They're trying to take away all the contracting rights. The question I'd ask is why would we change that? ... I don't think they're going to get a deal done if they're trying to take away guys' contracting rights." Crosby "wonders if the NHLPA has better information flow and representative ideas than the owners." He said, "On (union) conference calls, it's great. ... We all have the opportunity to say what we want to say. That's the unfortunate thing as far as owners are concerned -- you have two or three owners (at meetings). Whether (they represent) the feeling of 30, we don't know" (PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE, 11/13).

EXAMINING FEHR'S NEGOTIATING TACTICS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote the NHL "is finding out that when it comes to tactics, one of Fehr's is to push the buttons of the guys on the other side of the table." What the league is "seeing is Fehr at his absolute best." What people need to realize is Fehr has "one concern and one concern only, and that is to get the best deal for his constituents." The only problem is the "best deal has quickly become the least-worst deal." After months of "playing the part of conciliator, Fehr is beginning to show his legendary teeth." And that is "probably not a good sign for anyone who hopes to see the NHL in action in the foreseeable future" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/12). In New Jersey, Andrew Gross writes, "I believe ... Fehr has flustered the league." During the '04-05 lockout, the owners "felt they always had the upper hand on former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow." But Fehr has "proven to be an unpredictable foe." Gross: "At some point, though, Fehr will have to alter his delaying tactics to get the players a deal" (Bergen RECORD, 11/13). Author Jonathon Gatehouse, who wrote "The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL and Changed the Game Forever," said, "The whole thing about the hiring of Donald Fehr was never to beat Bettman and the NHL. It was about limiting the damage. The union has already indicated they are going to take less. Everybody knows they're going to go to 50-50. Now it's about making sure you don't surrender too easily and make sure you at least get some things in return for that huge concession" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/13).

MESSING WITH THE GAME: NESN’s Jack Edwards said of the NHL CBA negotiations, “The trigger pullers in this latest suicide attempt by the NHL don’t get it. They don't get it. Hockey's leaders failed.” Edwards: “They have taken away the games that we love, but they cannot take away our love of the game. Yes, the gates will open again, the faithful will return, the money will pour in. Some suit someday will say that those dollars justify this lockout, that the cash flow is his vindication and proof of forgiveness. Wrong! A returning fan is not an endorsement of this act of betrayal” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 11/12).
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