Donald Fehr Has Attention Of NHL, Players As CBA Negotiations Near
NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "has the players' attention, and he has the NHL's attention -- especially after skirmishes involving realignment and hockey-related revenue," according to Nicholas Cotsonika of YAHOO SPORTS. Fehr has been in office about a year and a half, and he "has made the NHLPA much stronger, more organized and more assertive." The players "seem to be on the same page." Blues RW and player rep B.J. Crombeen said of the '04-05 lockout, "You lost guys’ interest, or they weren’t knowledgeable enough, they weren’t prepared enough, and then things fall apart. I think that’s something that we’re really taking seriously, and I think we’ve got a lot of guys on board with that and really buying into paying attention and really understanding it as opposed to just saying, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’" Fehr has said that CBA talks "will start sometime after the All-Star Game," but with the game being played Sunday, "talks still won’t start for a while." The NHLPA "still has work to do before the players can establish their bargaining positions, and Fehr feels there is plenty of time" before the CBA expires Sept. 15. Fehr: "We’ve spent a lot of time going over the agreements, and while it’s safe to say that there are probably a number of general directions we’re going to suggest to the players, I’m not yet ready to say that that process is completed or that there isn’t other information we still hope to get that won’t change our mind about some things." He added, "We’ve done a lot of work based on the information we have. There’s still information we’re going to want to go over -- and go over hopefully jointly with representatives of management -- which will fill in the pieces" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).
MAJOR ISSUES TO RESOLVE: ESPN.com's Craig Custance listed revenue division as one of the major issues in the upcoming CBA and wrote, "Right now the players get 57 percent of the revenue (when revenues exceed $2.7 billion) and the owners will be looking to lower that number significantly like owners in the NFL and NBA were able to negotiate. The NBA agreement includes a 50-50 split of basketball-related income and the NFL players got 47 percent of all revenue." A source said that he expects Commissioner Gary Bettman to "start at 45 percent and work up from there." Another issue will be rollback, as the players "gave a 24 percent rollback on their contracts coming out of the lockout, and that is expected to be brought up again this time around." A good indication that players believe a rollback is possible "comes in the number of recent free agents who demanded signing bonuses or a large part of their contract be paid before the CBA expired." They "weren't taking their chances with another salary cut." Escrow will also be a major CBA issue, as the players "hate losing a portion of every check." But in a salary cap system, it "may be a necessary evil" (ESPN.com, 1/25).
PLAYERS' POSITION: An NHL player who pens an anonymous column for YAHOO SPORTS discussed the decision by the NHLPA to reject the NHL's realignment proposal." He wrote, "As a group the players had two main concerns -- the competitive disadvantage of the teams in the eight-team conferences, and the effect that the new schedule would have on travel. With that in mind we set out to have some questions answered by the League office." But the player wrote Bettman "was not willing to discuss different recommendations because he was not interested in our opinions. This was not a negotiation. All he wanted from the union was a yes or a no" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).