Despite Thursday's proclamation from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that the league intends to impose a lockout if a new deal cannot be reached by Sept. 15, both the NHL owners and the NHLPA "expressed optimism Friday that a work stoppage can be avoided," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. Jets D Ron Hainsey said, "I think it's absolutely possible to get something done with no time missed." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "I truly believe a deal can be done, but it will require a lot of work. We've got a lot of issues still open. We haven't even heard from (the union) on the economic issues and we have a month, so it will require hard work and commitment on both sides." Strang noted although the owners and players "have forged common ground on smaller, secondary issues -- player safety and hockey-related items among them -- there is believed to be a significant gulf with respect to the economics of a new deal." Friday's subcommittee meetings "were limited to hockey issues, and not financial discussions, and covered items such as supplementary discipline, training camp, ice conditions and travel" (ESPNNY.com, 8/10). SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector noted with the players prepared to present their proposal this week, "it was wise" to end last week on "a friendlier note" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/10).
TAKE FROM THE RICH, GIVE TO THE POOR: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted this week the NHLPA is "expected to make a formal response/counterproposal to what the league dropped on the table last month." The players are likely to propose that the owners "develop creative ways to balance out their rich and poor franchise." They will "suggest that the well-heeled likes" of the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Canucks and Bruins "get more serious about sharing the wealth with shoeless souls such as" the Predators, Coyotes, Panthers and Blue Jackets (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/12). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote the NHL "does not have a player cost problem," but rather a "small-market revenue problem, one its initial parody of collective bargaining proposal to the NHLPA doesn't begin to address." The disparity of revenue between the "powerhouse markets and the ne'er-do-wells is the critical issue confronting the NHL, but the powers that be either don't have the imagination or foresight or the stomach or political capital to attend to it" (N.Y. POST, 8/12).
DIVIDE GROWS WIDER: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch wrote, "A straw poll of some league executives last week indicated there isn't optimism for a deal soon." Many are "making plans for a shortened season that likely won't begin until January." The current CBA "succeeded in levelling the playing field and brought some semblance of parity," but the financial gulf "between the big-market and small-market teams widened." This was mainly because NHL teams "shared less than 6% of revenue." By contrast, NFL clubs "share more than 60%." In the last seven years, the NHL "has increased its revenues" by more than $3.2B. A source on Saturday said, "They didn't share it between the big-and-small-market teams. A big percentage went into the pockets of the big-market teams who are now refusing increased revenue sharing as a means to address the disparity. This is not a players' issue anymore. This is a battle between the owners and it's time for them to settle it once and for all between themselves" (OTTAWA SUN, 8/12).
PLAYERS AREN'T THE PROBLEM: Hockey HOFer Bobby Orr said, "If we go back to the last collective bargaining agreement, the talk after that was 'Gee, the players really got beat on this one.' ... So all of the sudden the owners have come back -- I know they're negotiating, they're posturing and so on, but what they put out there, there's no way the players can accept something like that." He added, "Players want their fair share, and that's what it's all about and I think it's very unfair if fans -- until they understand and see everything what's out there -- that they suggest that the players are being greedy" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 8/11). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "How about a pledge from the owners that they will bargain through the end of the agreement and into the coming season?" The players "already have said they are willing to do so." Burnside: "So how about a commitment from the owners that they will not lock out the players, and a similar commitment from the players that they will not strike?" (ESPN.com, 8/10). In Montreal, Stu Cowan wrote: "It seems to me like Bettman is banking on two things: 1. That the players' union will cave after missing a few paycheques in a lockout, like the NBA players did last season; 2. That hockey fans will be willing to forgive and forget again after a lockout" (MONTREALGAZETTE.com, 8/10).
TAKING TO TWITTER: Several members of the NHLPA took to Twitter over the weekend to go on the offensive against Bettman's threat of a work stoppage. Flames C Mike Cammalleri wrote, “Still training hard for the season ahead. Hope Gary Bettman wasn’t serious about a lockout.” Canadiens LW Brandon Prust wrote, “Disappointed the league is talking about a lockout before we even give our @NHLPA counterproposal.” Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist, a regular participant in negotiations in New York, criticized the NHL for asking for more givebacks after the players agreed to a salary cap and 24% rollback on salaries in the last CBA, which was completed in '05 after a season-long lockout. He wrote, “The NHL says they won’t play past Sept. 15th under current deal. Apparently they don’t like the deal they designed.” The players have utilized a series of hashtags to make their points on Twitter, including #theplayers and #nhlpa2012. Ducks LW Daniel Winnick used one to say who he thinks are the other losers in a lockout. He wrote, “A lockout is only one option and never a solution #fansdeservebetter #the players. In addition, the union’s official twitter, @NHLPA, has begun linking to newspaper columns critical of the owners -- including a column by Larry Brooks in yesterday's N.Y. Post with the headline, “Bettman Playing Dirty” (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
PLANNING AHEAD: In Canada, John Shannon reported with a lockout "looming larger," the NHLPA is "quietly making plans for a series of star-studded exhibition games should the NHL shut down this fall." Sources said that games between "a team of Russian all-stars from the Kontinental Hockey League and 'world' all-stars from the NHL are tentatively set for Moscow, Halifax and Quebec City, as well as an undetermined site in Southern Ontario." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "spoke with representatives of the Russian league while overseas last week" (SPORTSNET.ca, 8/10). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes the contract between the NHL and the Univ. of Michigan states the league can cancel the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium "as late as Jan. 1, the day of the game, because of a work stoppage 'arising from the lack of a collective bargaining agreement.'" The contract states that the NHL would "forfeit only $100,000 of its $3 million stadium rental fee," while the rest of the fee "would be refunded by the university." The contract provisions "give the league some leeway for salvaging its showcase event" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/13).