SBD/December 13, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 89: Owners, Players Meet With Mediator But Not Each Other

The NHL and its players yesterday spent six-and-a-half hours with a federal mediator "and failed to make any progress toward ending" the lockout, according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. When players exited the meeting they "indicated lack of progress." The two sides "never were in the same room." It is still unclear "when, or if, the two sides would meet again" (USA TODAY, 12/13). NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said, "All I am going to say is there wasn't any change in position. ... I can't tell you that any progress was made." The CP's Chris Johnston notes both sides "briefly made public statements in frustrated tones when all was said and done." No one seemed to have "any concrete idea what to do next," as no new meetings have been scheduled, and whether "mediators will remain in the process is uncertain" (CP, 12/13).

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: The talks were "supposed to be held away from reporters and cameras, but the meeting location in suburban New Jersey was quickly revealed" (CP, 12/13). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes the undisclosed location for yesterday's meeting "didn't stay secret long." Canadian TV reporters "dispatched to New York" and local writers went to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service office in Iselin, N.J., where they "found players having lunch in the lobby during a break" (OTTAWA SUN, 12/13).

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT: ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang cited sources as saying that, to the NHLPA's understanding, the league's stance "has not changed since last Thursday and that it maintains a 'take-it-or-leave-it' position" (ESPNNY.com, 12/12). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle reports the NHL "told players through the mediators it was willing only to go as far as offering what had already been discussed." Free agent C Brendan Morrison said, "Basically, they left it up to us to decide whether to accept their last proposal. It wasn't much of a decision." He added, "I never thought the issues were as big as they were back in '04-05. Apparently I was wrong" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, after reports the league's last proposal remained on the table, said, "No, there is not a proposal on the table." Morrison said, "I wasn't aware of that. When we left the meeting with the mediator we were told that package was still on the table" (NJ.com, 12/12). Blackhawks RW Jamal Mayers said, "There's not much you can do when it's take-it-or-leave-it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/13). In Pittsburgh, Josh Yohe notes Daly yesterday was "visibly agitated." Daly said, "I don't know if I'm coming back tomorrow. I don't have any more to say." Yohe notes Fehr is "pushing for more dialogue but is unsure what the rest of the week will offer" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/13).

WHO MAKES THE NEXT MOVE? In Minneapolis, Michael Russo wrote the owners are "done negotiating," and unless they are "bluffing, the next move will have to come from the players deciding if they want to throw away 100 percent of their salaries because they want an 8-year CBA or a little longer term in a max deal" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 12/12). The OTTAWA SUN's Garrioch writes, "If you're going to make progress in mediation, you have to have two willing participants." The NHL "wanted nothing to do with this in the first place while the union was steadfast in having mediators step in." A source said, "The league isn't going to let a mediator decide how they're going to do their business. The NHL took part in the process to humour the players. The league doesn't believe this is a solution" (OTTAWA SUN, 12/13). An NHL player agent said, "If the owners negotiate with the players, there'll be a season. If they don't, there won't be" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/13).

TICK, TOCK: The OTTAWA SUN's Garrioch cited sources as saying that the league "was going to cancel games up until Jan.14 last Monday, but, trying to entice the players back to the table, decided to hold off to see if they could get talks back on track." But after the negotiations yesterday, "don't be surprised if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decides to slap a 'drop-dead date' on the union to get a deal done" (OTTAWASUN.com, 12/12).

HARDLINERS RUNNING THE SHOW: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin cited sources as saying that Flames Owner Murray Edwards has surpassed Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs "as the main proponent of the NHL's hardball approach." Players in the negotiations said that Edwards also was "part of last week's Dump Don Fehr campaign." Dowbiggin wrote what makes Edwards' participation in this process "curious is that his own team, the Flames, are poster boys for the kind of spending the league is trying to curb" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/12). In Denver, Adrian Dater spoke with a "staunch member of the player side of the aisle, someone who has both played the game (for a long time) and been a part of pro hockey management." The source said, "Only five or six teams are running this league, along with Bettman. They’re going to do what’s best for themselves." He added, "If they had a real revenue-sharing system, the poor would have a chance to make money along with the middle class, and the very rich teams would have to take a little less. But Bettman will never go for it, and as long as guys like Jeremy Jacobs and Murray Edwards are running the league along with Bettman, it’s never going to happen." Dater asked another "influential NHL exec" about the possibility of having a season. The exec said, "We’ll play if (Fehr) wants us to play. We aren’t going to surrender on what [we] really need to make him a hero" (DENVERPOST.com, 12/13).

UNITED THEY STAND: Bruins G Tuukka Rask yesterday said, "Next week or so we're going to have a deal, hopefully. ... I think they're trying to see if we're going to break or not. I think they've been looking at that the whole time. ... We're a really strong union and we stick by what we want" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 12/12). Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall said, "We're in this for the better of the game and for the next generation, as well" (FREEP.com, 12/12). Sharks D Douglas Murray: "Players have made huge concessions and no matter what Gary Bettman says, he hasn't made any concessions as far as I know." Murray said of the 10-year term the owners want for the next CBA, "Would you ever do that unless you thought you had a great deal in front of you?" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 12/12). Flyers LW Scott Hartnell said of comments made weeks ago by Capitals D Roman Hamrlik that were critical of Fehr and the NHLPA, "I can't wait to see what (Hamrlik's) teammates do when guys go after him. To sell the whole PA under the bus and to stick up for a guy like that is going to be tough." Senators D Chris Neil: "I don't agree with what Hamrlik said, but it is what it is. He's come out and said that. I just think it prolongs the process" (OTTAWA SUN, 12/13).

IN THE FACE OF FEHR: GRANTLAND's Charles Pierce wrote it is "time, once again," for management "to blame Donald Fehr for everything." It always has "seemed to me that, decades ago, Donald Fehr made his peace with being a lightning rod." He never was going to be "larger than life," as late MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller was, nor was he going to be "able to create his own legend, either." For his entire career, Fehr has "been the caretaker of other people's victories, the guardian of other people's triumphs." There is "something to be said for all of that" (GRANTLAND.com, 12/11). In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote Fehr, like the game's "best agitators," has been an "asset to his team." With each round of negotiations, Fehr has "scratched back concessions for his employers." Fehr has "used what little leverage he's had to prompt the owners to cede gains to the players." The question is "whether Fehr has pushed too far" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/12).

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote the problem is "the unwillingness of each side to fully grasp and accept the primary goals/needs of the other." The owners have "communicated their objectives poorly to the players, who with a lot of bile already built up in their system, responded with unsurprising anger bordering on hatred." The players "always knew they had to give, they just didn’t want it to feel or look like they weren’t putting up a fight." The penchant for "self-destructive behaviour by both of these organizations is remarkable," but it seems to "make sense that there will be NHL hockey by January." Then, it will be "time to switch over immediately, and aggressively, to three priorities." Those are, "Growing the pie. ... Building a new relationship. ... Fixing the game" (TORONTO STAR, 12/12). Former Canucks Owner Arthur Griffiths said, "The owners have suddenly come back to the table and found this solidarity that disregards the growth in the game and disregards that in some markets it's beginning to show the progress you want" (DETROITNEWS.com, 12/11).

RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS: The AP's Dan Gelston wrote under the header, "Will Frustrated NHL Fans Who Vow To Stay Away Be Able To Keep That Promise?" NHL fan Steve Chase started the grass roots "Just Drop It" campaign that "encourages fans to boycott one NHL game for every game cancelled after Dec. 21st." He started a Facebook page and "more than 11,000 angry fans have joined." This time -- whenever the lockout ends -- the league "might be all out of tricks." They will "need to dig," and it could "take years to recover from the wreckage." Some teams are "trying to keep their brand alive among an increasingly uninterested public." The Flyers aired classic games and "brought back former stars for autograph signings at a sports bar in the same complex as the Wells Fargo Center" (AP, 12/12). Coyotes Development Coach Dave King said, "If we want to maintain our credibility for television networks, our credibility for sponsorships for our teams and all of those financial issues that are so important to the survival of the game, we can't have another work stoppage go the complete season. It just doesn't make any sense. We all know we can't go there" (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 12/13). In Illinois, Barry Rozner wrote under the header, "NHL Owners Pushing Fans To Brink Of Apathy" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 12/12). A SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS editorial is written under the header, "Fans And San Jose Businesses Need Hockey." Legitimate disagreement "over contract terms and division of revenue has turned into a battle of egos between" Bettman and Fehr. The search for a "legitimate bargain has become a win-at-all-costs blood sport" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/13).
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