NHL, Union Resume Talks In N.Y.; Players Unfazed By League's Bold CBA Proposal
The NHL and the NHLPA met for two and a half hours in N.Y. yesterday, but the union said it was not ready to respond to the league’s proposal from last week. The proposal included a reduction in the share of hockey-related revenue from 57% to 46%, among other rollbacks. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the meetings continue to be “cordial” and “constructive,” but would not discuss the specifics of yesterday’s meeting or the owners’ first proposal. Asked whether the league would consider continuing to operate without a signed CBA before its Sept. 15 expiration date, Bettman said, “My focus is on getting a deal done, not on what will happen if we don’t.” Although the proposal was criticized by some columnists and player agents, Canucks C Manny Malhotra said the union will not overreact in meetings or in the press. “No one flew off the handle,” said Malhotra. “It’s a long process.” Rangers C Brandon Dubinsky said there was no reason yet to respond to the league’s proposal “until we get all of the information.” NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr was asked if he was concerned negotiations would be all about rollbacks for the players. “I hope not,” Fehr said. “We will see where that goes.” Meetings are scheduled for today and Friday in N.Y. (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
NOBODY PANIC: SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote after yesterday's talks, it was clear "that the widespread panic in the hockey world after the NHL's initial proposal last Friday did not spread to the players." Malhotra said, "Instead of getting wrapped up emotionally and going off the handle, it makes far more sense to be educated in what they’re trying to propose and understanding in great detail, to make sure we know what to counter with” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/18). Fehr said yesterday, "The purpose of the meeting was for them to give us a more detailed explanation of the proposal they made last week." Fehr confirmed that the NHL "asked the players to reduce their share in hockey-related revenue." Dubinsky said, "I think everybody's expecting us to say how upset and disappointed we were, but it's a negotiation and that was our starting point." Malhotra said, "(The NHL's proposal) wasn't very shocking. It was no surprise. I think the union as a whole, we're in far better shape than we were in the past -- the unity that we have, the education we have as a whole, and the way that information is being passed around" (ESPNNY.com, 7/18). Former NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly said, "I don't think people need to get all that nervous and upset at this point. There's a long way to go. If we're still having this discussion and there's still this polarization come late August, then I think people ought to be concerned” ("NESN Daily," NESN, 7/18). Meanwhile, Fehr said that it will "take some time before the union made its own offer." Fehr: "We’re not to that stage yet. We will make our own proposals -- whether it’s a counterproposal to something they said or something of our own -- when we’re ready, after we have fully digested what they’ve done, are sure we understand it, have had all the discussions with them we need to have and have had all the internal discussions we need to have" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19).
LEARNING LESSONS FROM HISTORY: Bruins RW Mark Recchi said, "The game has grown so much in the United States over the past six years since the last lockout. The Kings winning it all this year, Boston the year before and Chicago before that, so you won back those Original Six cities and it’s going so well now. So you have to believe, and based on talks I have had on both sides, everyone realizes how bad another lockout will be. That’s why I think we’ll be OK and they will find a solution and avoid that." He added that the sides also "must work out a more specific definition for 'hockey-related revenue' since that [determines] how any new revenue sharing works." Recchi: “The owners don’t want another lockout either, but when it comes down to it, this whole process will be about them learning to save themselves from themselves. You've got guys like (Minnesota Wild owner) Craig Leopold crying broke a few months ago and then signing two 13-year contracts worth $98 million each." Recchi said, "This is how negotiations work. You shoot for the moon and then come down. The owners did that and they know they’ll have to come down. They also know the players won’t go below 50/50. People are getting worried and up in arms over this, but this isn’t any surprise. The PA had to know that was coming and now they will go from there" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 7/18).