Fehr Says NHL CBA Talks Will Begin "Very Quickly," But Could Stretch Into '12-13 Season
NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr yesterday said that negotiations on a new CBA "will begin 'very quickly' -- perhaps as early as this week -- and didn't rule out talks stretching into the season," according to Andrew Seligman of the AP. Fehr, who was in Chicago for three days of union talks, said that negotiations "will begin after Wednesday's meeting of the NHLPA's executive board." When asked whether a work stoppage was inevitable, Fehr said, "None of that is coming from our side. That's the first thing. Secondly, we have not made a proposal. We haven't heard an owners' proposal." He added, "There's nothing magic about Sept. 15. The law is that if you don't have a new agreement, and as long as both sides are willing to keep negotiating, you can continue to play under the terms of the old one until you reach an agreement." Fehr said that he "expected 40 to 60 players to attend the meetings" in Chicago this week (AP, 6/25). In Chicago, Chris Kuc notes some NHLers yesterday arrived at a downtown hotel "in a sign of solidarity for their union and also to become informed about the issues as labor negotiations with the league loom." Fehr said, "From our standpoint, the starting place is the players made enormous concessions the last time around. Also, the game generates a lot more revenue than it did before. You put those two things together and it ought to point you in a direction as to where this negotiation should go." Kuc notes the "likely biggest negotiating point will be revenue sharing, with realignment and participation in the Olympics among other issues" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/26).
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: The CP's Chris Johnston notes with "talks set to begin as soon as this week, players are free to speak publicly about the negotiations." Fehr said that he "has no problem with his membership discussing the issues." He said, "From my standpoint, I've never believed in gag rules. ... It won't be at my recommendation that we get into that." Regarding the league's policy on the matter, Fehr said, "I would ask why they would do that and then the second question that I would ask is: What is it they're afraid (owners and team executives) will say?" (CP, 6/26).
TOO MUCH PARITY? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes, "The trouble is the NHL still has the same over-riding problem it did seven years ago -- the 10 or so teams at the top of the revenue chart make all kinds of money while teams in the middle struggle to break even and the 10 teams at the bottom lose millions of dollars a year." Introducing a salary cap based on revenue "only exacerbated the problem in the case of the poorest teams." The players, though, "see the solution through more revenue sharing." It was introduced in the current agreement, "albeit in limited fashion, but the Coyotes and Panthers et al are still swimming in red ink." Toronto-based player agent Anton Thun said, "The players had their salaries rolled back by 24 per cent but somehow none of that (money) got into the hands of the small-revenue owners. The reason for that is the revenue redistribution model didn't work." Since many small-revenue teams "feel the current revenue-sharing system is too restrictive because they need to hit certain growth targets or they lose part of their share, any labour disruption could be as much about squabbles among the owners as it is between them and the players" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/26).
SPLIT DECISION: The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor wrote there is "one area of potential conflict that gets little talked about," and that has to do with the salary cap the owners "fought so hard for last time around and the players eventually capitulated on in what was widely considered a triumphant romp for the owners." However, the owners' concern "isn't at the top end," but instead, "at the lower end, the bare minimum teams must spend." There is "a movement to go after the minimum" and some clubs "would like it abolished outright" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/23).
WORKING TOGETHER: In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic wrote, "Bottom line: There's no intelligent reason for a shutdown" as the owners "are fine." Meanwhile, the average player salary "has nearly doubled" from $1.46M to $2.4M, so the players "are fine, too" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, "The system doesn't seem headed for a complete overhaul." Blues C David Backes said both sides are entering talks "without looking for sweeping change." But Cotsonika wrote, "This will not be a simple haggling over the owners' and players' shares of the pie." The bottom line "is that no one knows until the sides actually sit down to the table." Backes said, "Taking advantage of [NHLPA] membership is something that I don't think happened in the past. It was a few guys that had that ability, and when the deal was done, they brought it to the rest of the guys. Without disclosing everything, I think the organization and the inclusion of really everyone in the union is something that is important moving forward and something that Don's really instilled. You can't have 20 guys making a deal for 700, because it just doesn't work" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/25). NBCSPORTS.com's James O'Brien wrote, "The players seem serious about being more involved this time around, which is probably mostly a good thing" (NBCSPORTS.com, 6/25).