NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman plan to meet this week to talk about the league's CBA, but neither party "wanted to say when serious labour negotiations will begin," according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Fehr Saturday said that he "meets regularly with Bettman and their next get-together should not be seen as the formal commencement of talks about a new collective agreement." Fehr said that before serious talks begin, a "series of preliminary discussions about logistics and an informal list of issues need to be held." He believes that "will happen in the next couple of weeks but did not want to say when the major talks will begin." The current CBA expires on Sept. 15, and when Fehr was asked if negotiations would begin only when the season ended, he said, "No, I wouldn't say that." Fehr added that formal talks "cannot begin until the players get more financial information from the league." He said that the information the players "do have, which is mostly about hockey-related revenue and the owners' player costs, appears to be accurate but the union still needs more information about the league's other expenses." Shoalts noted the two "biggest issues involve revenue sharing." The owners want to "reduce the players’ take of hockey-related revenue from the current 57 per cent to less than 50 to mirror the agreements recently reached in the NFL and NBA." The players want the owners to "radically change their system for sharing revenues between richer and poorer teams and increase the amount of shared revenue." Fehr said that just because the NBA and NFL players "agreed to reduce their overall share of league revenue it does not mean the NHL players will follow suit" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/29).
ON TAP: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted when formal negotiations "do begin, the question is just how this process will go after the last labor battle cost the entire 2004-05 season." Bettman said Saturday, "My hope is that we can reason together and that collective bargaining will be painless and quiet and quick. That would serve everyone's best interest" (ESPN.com, 1/28). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau noted Fehr "once again raised the notion of revenue sharing as a solution that worked in his past job running the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, but didn’t talk like a man who was gearing up for a heavily rhetorical public brawl." Neither did Bettman, who "noted the union and league were able to settle the contested issue of hockey-related revenue without a protracted, negative battle." Proteau noted those "black clouds might yet appear on the league’s horizon," but for now both Bettman and Fehr were "content the NHL’s ice was solid enough for the game to continue skating on" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 1/28). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said of the CBA talks, "I have no idea if we see the world the same way, or whether we see it a little bit apart, or whether we see it a long way apart. I won’t be in a position to handicap that until we sit down." Senators C Jason Spezza: "I feel like Don’s done a great job of informing everyone, and I think every player to a man would tell you that. We don’t understand all of what’s going on, but we understand he’s in charge, and lets us have a voice too" (NATIONALPOST.com, 1/28).
RESPECT YOUR ELDERS: In Toronto, Dave Feschuk noted following the "disgruntlement of some alumni who were unhappy that none of the proceeds from the Winter Classic alumni game benefitted retired NHLers," NHL Alumni Association Exec Dir Mark Napier said that he "has been contacted by the league officials who have expressed a desire to discuss a mutually beneficial financial model for future events." Feschuk noted the NHLAA, founded in '99 "to advocate on behalf of the league’s retirees, had zero involvement" in the Winter Classic Alumni Game. A "conservative estimate" of the Dec. 31 game "put gate receipts for the event at more than $4 million, not including concessions, parking and merchandising." Participants "were given economy airfare, a hotel room and meals; Napier said he has heard exclusively positive feedback from his members about the way they were treated in Philadelphia." However, some alumni "expressed disgust that they were asked to pay for an assortment of ancillary fees to play in the game, including $50 for sticks, about $50 to $100 in airline baggage fees to ship hockey equipment, not to mention a mandatory $100 gratuity to the training staff" (TORONTO STAR, 1/28).