SBD/November 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 72: League Rejects Union's Latest Proposal, Cancels More Games

Hopes for even a shortened NHL season "seem to be dwindling" as NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr "spoke briefly" Friday but no new negotiations are planned, according to Kevin McGran of the TORONTO STAR. Daly "hinted there might be some" talks this week after the NHL considers where things stand. Fehr said that a new offer "will not be coming from the players, who believe the two sides are $182 million apart over five years with some contract restraint issues outstanding." Fehr said, "We moved a couple of miles, they moved a couple of inches." A union source said that moderate players "have moved to the hawk side, venting their anger" after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman rejected the NHLPA’s latest offer last week. The source said, "Players are in the room and then they’re talking. ...  The venom about what Bettman is like in these meetings isn’t doing the NHL any good" (TORONTO STAR, 11/23). NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr on Saturday met with about 25 players "to fill them in on what's happening, which isn't much." Fehr said, "There are no further (negotiation) meetings scheduled." He added, "Everybody understands that negotiation is a process. So far, we seem to be doing all the negotiating" (USATODAY.com, 11/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle noted on the "heels of players making an offer on Wednesday," Steve Fehr indicated it was "unlikely they would have another one any time soon." Fehr said, "They've given the owners concessions that really are fairly valued at $1-billion or more. But they're not prepared to go any further right now." Mirtle noted the cancellation of "yet another full season isn't expected until at least mid-January" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/24).

SCHEDULE CONFLICTS: In N.Y., Pat Leonard wrote by cancelling the first two weeks of its December schedule and the Jan. 27 All-Star Game in Columbus, the lockout "now has cost the league 422 regular season games." If the owners and players can't agree on a new CBA, "a maximum of two cancellations remain: the second [half] of December and then -- gulp -- the full season." December’s first round of cancellations "meant players will miss their third and fourth round of paychecks" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/23). The CBC's Tony Care noted the "best-case scenario for the NHL is a shortened schedule of approximately 60 games per team." A source said that all of those games "would be played within a team's own conference" (CBC.ca, 11/23).

ALL-STAR GAME LATEST LOSS: In Columbus, Aaron Portzline in a front-page piece wrote the cancellation of the All-Star Game on Friday "was a setback for the Blue Jackets, who are trying to rejuvenate a moribund franchise, and a financial hit for the city, which will lose $12 million in revenue and as much as $50 million in media exposure that the weeklong All-Star festivities were projected to create." The earliest the Blue Jackets "would be able to play host to the game would appear to be 2015." The '14 Sochi Games "would preclude an All-Star Game in the 2013-14 season." Greater Columbus Sports Commission Exec Dir Linda Logan said, “We want to have it in 2015. We’ll have the dates necessary." The Blue Jackets said that fans who have "already paid for All-Star Game tickets would be reimbursed by the outlet at which they purchased them" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/24). Also in Columbus, Michael Arace wrote the NHL lockout "has been an economic detriment to our area and it has hurt some people who can least afford it." However, the "idle time is to the Jackets' benefit." Arace: "Who wants to be the host in the middle of a shortened season, coming off a labor dispute? Also, do the Blue Jackets even have an All-Star?" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/24).

OUTLINING THE CONCESSIONS: The cancellations came after the league Wednesday rejected the NHLPA's latest proposal "despite significant concessions from the union 67 days into the lockout." Jets D Ron Hainsey, who has been present at nearly every negotiation session, said, "I would not say it was a blanket no. They responded to our proposal, but there was no meaningful move in our direction in anything that we would consider a major issue" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/22). In Buffalo, John Vogl noted the players' proposal "was dismissed almost in full once again by the league." The "make whole" provision and "player contracting rights continue to be prime obstacles to a deal." The league "reportedly agreed with the union’s desire to keep entry-level contracts at three years rather than the NHL-recommended two," but the league "refused to budge" on other player contracting issues. Meanwhile, the NHLPA "agreed to help eliminate front-loaded contracts but rejected the league’s plan to impose term limits and push back free agency." Bettman, in addition to "saying the players are losing up to" $10M per day, said the league is losing between $18-20M "every 24 hours." That number "could rise as backlash increases among sponsors and fans" (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/22). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang noted the union "offered to link the players' share to revenue in the league's preferred percentage-based system -- a substantial concession considering the guaranteed player amount featured in player proposals -- although there remain some serious concerns among owners about the offer" (ESPNNY.com, 11/23).

KEYS TO A DEAL: The GLOBE & MAIL's Mirtle noted the six-page proposal prepared by Donald Fehr "outlines seven key areas that could form the foundation for a new collective bargaining agreement: revenue sharing, pension plan, discipline, player contracting and system issues, players’ share, term of CBA and transition rules." It is "by far the NHLPA's most detailed offer yet" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/21). The CP's Chris Johnston noted the offer from the union "built off a framework previously put forward by the league and proposed a 50-50 split of revenues" along with $393M "in deferred payments to help ease the transition to a lower share for players." The NHL's last offer "was for a 50-50 split and $211 million" (CP, 11/23). Bettman, in reference to the league's proposal earlier this month, said Wednesday, “We made what was our best offer in order to save an 82-game season. That offer was summarily rejected. But to expect our best economic proposal as damage continues to increase isn’t particularly realistic." He added, “We’ve given what we have to give. It was our best offer" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/22).

COUNTER-ATTACK: YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote the perception within the league is that Donald Fehr "was pushed by the players to make this proposal." Bettman said that some owners "want him to take their current offer off the table, presumably so they can offer something worse and squeeze the players even more." It seems there are "varying opinions within both camps, some feeling Bettman and Fehr have gone too far, others feeling they haven't gone far enough to get this done" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/21). SI.com's Stu Hackel noted there were "reports that moderate voices in the NHLPA helped shape this proposal in an effort to get the two sides negotiating." Now that the proposal "to which they contributed has been shot down, you have to wonder how moderate they will be going forward" (SI.com, 11/21). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher wrote every time the players "allow the softer, more submissive nature to take over within their association, it turns into an unmitigated disaster." They find "they've been negotiating against themselves" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/22).

AT A STAND STILL: Predators D Shea Weber said, "They just continue to say that they're not moving off their stance, and they haven't from the beginning" (TENNESSEAN.com, 11/23). Rangers D Marc Staal said, "You don't know what their mind-set is because they don't say anything" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/26). Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson said, "Last time around we knew what the league wanted -- they had to get a cap. This time around I have a hard time seeing what their game plan is" (NYTIMES.com, 11/25). Red Wings RW Danny Cleary said, "It seems like a lot of give from players, and all the taking is on their side" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/22). Stars LW Ray Whitney, a veteran of four NHL work stoppages, said, "They're not really hockey people, they didn't grow up loving the game of hockey." He added, "They're like schoolyard bullies right now; they want everything. That's not negotiating. With us coming down to 50-50 (split of revenues), I don't see the need for this to go as long as this has. ... Over my three lockouts, this is by far the most informed we've been as players and a union" (ESPN.com, 11/23).

PLAYERS BASH BETTMAN: Blackhawks C Dave Bolland "expressed regret for retweeting a post that called for" Bettman's death, "saying it was a mistake." Bolland on Friday reposted a Twitter entry that read, "can I get a RT for wanting Bettman dead?" The retweet "later was deleted." Bolland said, "It was a mistake, I never meant to retweet that out. I like to retweet for a lot of my fans, and I just retweeted the wrong thing. I feel bad about it" (ESPN.com, 11/24). YAHOO SPORTS' Harrison Mooney noted former NHLer Jeff O'Neill "kicked the Bettman-bashing up a notch." O'Neill on Wednesday tweeted, "And Bettman stop talking to the media. I wanna 'make whole' in your fkn head." A couple hours later O'Neill tweeted, "My last tweet was inappropriate. Someone hacked my acct." (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/21).

FANS GET INVOLVED: During Wednesday's press conference, Bettman "was interrupted by a heckling fan, who was later revealed to be Jaymes Hall from Lancaster, Pa." After he "finished speaking with reporters, Bettman had a conversation with Hall and thanked him for being a fan" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/21). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Leonard has a transcript of Bettman's talk with Hall (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 11/21).
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