NHL Training Camps Unlikely To Start On Time, But Still Too Early To Panic About A Lockout?
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly yesterday said while he remains “hopeful” the league and NHLPA can resume talks for a new CBA, it is “increasingly unlikely” that training camps will open on time later this month. The NHL CBA expires on Sept. 15 and training camps are scheduled to open Sept. 21. Daly said, “It appears that based on the response we got from the Union last Friday, our talks have stalled, at least temporarily. While we certainly remain hopeful they will resume shortly, it is obviously becoming increasingly unlikely that NHL Training Camps will start on time." The NHL and the NHLPA have not met since Friday, when the league ended the meeting after the union made a proposal the league found to be unacceptable. NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said, "We haven’t had any discussions since the owners broke it off last week. Hopefully there will be some people talking in the next day or two to figure out what we do next and if they want to continue discussions. There have been no meetings and at the moment none are scheduled. Hopefully they will be” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). Daly said, "Maybe we're at a point where we need to find a way to move the ball forward. We're very close to Sept. 15, which we consider a very meaningful day. We hope it's as meaningful to the players' association. I don't know that it is." Fehr said, "The notion that players would not take Sept. 15 as a credible date upon which owners might choose to institute a lockout is just not credible" (LATIMES,com, 9/5).
EARLY EFFECTS FELT: Daly said economic discussions will continue when "one side or the other has a brilliant idea for moving this forward." In Minneapolis, Michael Russo notes more than "200 players arrive in New York next week for two days of meetings" with Fehr. Also, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman today will hold a Board of Governors meeting in N.Y. and it has "been reported that Bettman would seek approval there to lock out the players if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't in place by midnight Sept. 15." But Daly said that Bettman "already has that approval." Daly added that the mere possibility of a lockout is "affecting team's abilities to do business." Russo notes the damage to the business "already has begun -- prospects tournaments were canceled, the NHL didn't schedule season-opening games in Europe and, Wednesday, scrapped its player media tour" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/6).
NOT TIME TO PANIC: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes the negotiations are "still in the early stages, which are all about posturing, patience and the ability to wait out your opponent." When there are "stubborn, experienced, hard-headed negotiators" such as Bettman and Fehr "locking horns, it is hard to see either side making any meaningful concessions any time soon." Leverage will "shift on or about Oct. 11, when the regular season would start, and players start earning their salaries." At that point, the players "will have something tangible to lose." Every pay period "that passes with no games played is money lost forever." Moreover, a "percentage of owners in non-traditional markets care far less about their home dates in October and November than they do later in the season because they’re frequently playing second fiddle to other sports" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/6). ESPN.com's John Buccigross wrote it is "too early for 'save hockey' videos and impassioned 'save hockey' columns." The situation "will not get serious until later this month or early October." If "nothing is done then, the owners will chill for a month while the NFL and college football is revving up." The "over/under on a lockout length is six weeks." A source said that it "will go until December." Buccigross: "Others have told me November" (ESPN.com, 9/5). San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami said if a work stoppage is concluded by January 1, “they’ll survive it." Kawakami: "People don’t care about these games that early, and even the hockey fanatics are going to be okay, they’ll live with it if they get the season going." Kawakami: "If they cancel the season ... forget about it. I don’t think either side is that crazy” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 9/5).
PLAYER REAX: Maple Leafs D Mike Komisarek said that there already has "been talk about where players might go this time around." The NATIONAL POST's Michael Traikos notes Europe "is an option," and the NHLPA "has 'some things planned,' in regards to exhibition games." Komisarek said, "The PA sees the lockout as a last resort. That’s not our first bargaining chip or tool. No one wants to play hockey more than the players or the fans. This is our livelihood." He added, "When all that gets taken away from you and the first word you hear is lockout, it’s definitely disappointing. I don’t think frustration is the right word. Guys are hopeful" (NATIONAL POST, 9/6). Flames C and player rep Matt Stajan said, "Being pretty involved -- I know what's going on -- this is basically what we expected as players." In Calgary, Scott Cruickshank notes Stajan "referred to the league's original offer as 'laughable.'" Of the second proposal, Stajan said, "Not much of a difference. If you take a close look at what's really going on, I think it's pretty obvious that we're really trying to work out a fair deal" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/6). Lightning D Marc-Andre Bergeron said, "We gave them what they wanted, and all of a sudden it's not good enough. We're not the only one who should make sacrifices. It seems like we're too good of guys. They try to take advantage of us because they know what we gave the last time, I guess" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/6). Canucks C and player rep Manny Malhotra said, "I don't think that all 30 owners are at anywhere near the same level of agreement with what's going on. But the individual owners aren't allowed to say what they think about what's being set out by the league, and many of them have very different views than what's being said" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/6).