NHL, Union Hold "Positive" Three-Hour Meeting In Toronto As Part Of Ongoing CBA Talks
Negotiators from the NHL and the NHLPA "met for three hours in Toronto Tuesday to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement, and will convene on Friday and again next week," according to Steve Zipay of NEWSDAY. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the sides' fourth session since talks began in N.Y. on June 29 was "positive." Bettman: "The process is moving forward in a constructive manner." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that some of the issues discussed yesterday "involved 'day-to-day player working conditions' such as travel, but both sides declined to discuss details and said there is a lot of work ahead." Eleven players attended the session (NEWSDAY, 7/11). Both Fehr and Bettman agreed that it is "too early to comment on whether the start of next season is in jeopardy." In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes the sides have "exchanged positions on big-ticket items: revenue sharing, team salary floors, free agency, structuring of multi-year contracts, escrow percentages and conference realignment" (TORONTO STAR, 7/11). SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote there is "no hint yet as to what shape the NHL’s talks with the NHLPA ... are taking, but the early signs are positive -- at least insofar as they aren’t negative." The "good news for hockey fans is that the antagonism between the league and union that resulted in a season-canceling lockout in 2004-05 does not appear to have carried over to these talks." Like Bettman, Fehr is "will aware of the stakes" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/6).
IN HIS OWN WORDS: An anonymous NHLer writing for YAHOO SPORTS noted there are "still too many unknowns at this point to make any real predictions" on whether there will be a lockout. The player wrote, "If the rumors are true and the NHL proposes to bring the player's share of hockey related revenues (HRR) down to 50 percent, that could elicit a push-back from the players." The "good news is that the NHL had seven straight seasons of record revenues." The "bad news, for some teams, is that the increases in revenue haven't been evenly distributed, making it increasingly difficult for them to spend even to the floor." Bettman "got the system he wanted, one that he assured us would give us 30 healthy teams." The player: "My opinion is that if we have teams that are 'sick,' as we surely do, then simply re-setting salaries once again will neither be palatable to the players nor will it really fix the problem. Not in the long term. ... If we are going to be serious about creating an environment in which all teams can be financially successful, then it's going to take considerably more thought than simply reducing the cap by 10-15 percent. Maybe there are some markets in which it's simply not realistic to expect that the situation can be salvaged" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/10). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote under the header, "NHL Owners Can't Cry Poor This Time." Even though there "isn't one major issue like a salary cap confronting the two sides this time around, the core theme remains the same: the league demanding that the players help the league's teams save themselves from themselves." The owners are "back looking for even more cost certainty because, as revenues have risen through the roof, the playing field hasn't necessarily remained particularly level" (ESPN.com, 7/10).