NHL employees were informed today that, beginning Oct. 1, they would work four-day weeks and receive 20% pay cuts during the league’s lockout. The announcement was made by Commissioner Gary Bettman and league execs at an all-staff meeting at a Manhattan hotel. The league told employees there would be no layoffs initially but could not make any further guarantees. In the lockout that cancelled the entire '04-05 season, half of the league’s staff had been laid off by the time the lockout was lifted. No meetings have been scheduled between the NHL and NHLPA. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr have been in contact over the last 24 hours, attempting the bridge the gap on core economic issues and looking to plan more formal negotiations (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
NEXT WEEK CRITICAL: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported the next "seven to 10 days are seen as 'crucial' by some to finding out whether there’s a meaningful negotiation" between the NHL and the NHLPA and a "bit of traction in talks, or whether there's a freezing-out period similar to eight years ago when three months went by without any negotiations occurring." Despite "not officially bargaining with each other since last Wednesday when both sides delivered updated proposals, the league and NHLPA have kept nearly daily contact" via Fehr and Daly. The public has "to believe bargaining will resume over the next week, and hopefully both sides return to the table willing to move off their positions in an attempt to find some middle ground." LeBrun: "They better. Otherwise, we’re looking at a prolonged affair" (ESPN.com, 9/18). QMI AGENCY's Chris Stevenson wrote there is "already a sense that things are ... about to get real." The next week to 10 days "is going to be crucial in dictating how deep the pain of this work stoppage is going to be." If there is "no substantial progress on a new CBA by the end of the month -- that's a week from Sunday -- there's a growing sentiment that the league is going to be shut down for months, not weeks" (QMI AGENCY, 9/18). Sabres LW Thomas Vanek said, "We're far apart, not only with the numbers and stuff, I think it's the framework. I don't think the owners are giving our framework an honest look" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/18).
TRYING TO PREDICT THE END: In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi writes both sides "seem ready for a long, drawn-out battle." Neither the NHL nor the union is "willing to make a bigger compromise on the main issues -- how to divide hockey-related revenue (HRR), and how to help the small-market teams through increased revenue sharing." When you "consider the HRR proposals that have been bandied about, you can make a case for both sides' being stubborn." In the owners' last proposal, they "offered the players 49 percent during the first year of a six-year CBA, with the players' share dropping to 48 percent in the second year, and to 47 percent in the last four years." The players "want about 53 to 54 percent." A source said that if there was "a 50-50 split in HRR, there's a good chance the owners would agree to that aspect of the CBA" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes this may be Bettman "trying to get the measure of his adversary in these talks," NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. That is the "difficulty for anybody who purports to know how long the lockout is going to last." Duhatschek: "They don't know. They can't know. And it's because for Bettman, Fehr is an unknown commodity." The evidence for "pessimism seems far stronger, and that's largely because Fehr has the players convinced that their givebacks during the lost season of 2004-05 mean that the onus is on the owners to compromise this time" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/19).
LOCKOUT CASUALTY: In Ottawa, Allen Panzeri noted Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario, is "going to have to wait a year to realize its ... chance of hosting an NHL game." The city, which has a population just under 5,000, has "become a casualty of the NHL lockout." Last spring, it "won the annual Kraft Hockeyville competition by edging out four other communities and was to have hosted" the Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs preseason game on Oct. 3. The game will now be "held in October 2013." The Maple Leafs will remain one of the two teams, with the opponent "to be determined." Stirling-Rawdon Mayor Rodney Cooney said that, except for the game, the "surrounding festivities will carry on as scheduled." That will include a" parade, the Stanley Cup will visit and there will be an alumni game" between the Maple Leafs and Sabres (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/18).
NOT WORTH THE WAIT: ESPN THE MAGAZINE's Craig Custance notes former NHLer Mike Modano "estimates the last lockout cost him more than $7 million in salary by sitting out a year," and to him, the "payoff wasn't worth the sacrifice." Modano said, "In hindsight, it wasn't worth it. It was a waste of time. We thought we were stronger than we were. We started falling apart as the months clicked by." Modano's "advice for players digging in for the fight is to be prepared for disappointment." Modano: "I would say (to them) that it's not about a battle you're going to feel like you're going to win. It's a negotiation. You feel at some point that both sides will be upset about what they have to give up" (ESPN.com, 9/18).
SURVEY SAYS: In Vancouver, Mike Raptis cites a poll as revealing that during this lockout, Canadians "aren't waiting at the door for the NHL to let them back in." The survey, conducted by NRG Research Group and Peak Communicators, "gathered public opinion from each of Canada's seven hockey cities." NRG President Andrew Enns yesterday in a release said, "The response shows Canadians are less angry about the lockout than one may expect." Among those who described themselves as "hardcore fans," 86% are "ruing the latest relapse at the collective bargaining table." But the average fan in Vancouver "seems to be awash in apathy at the prospect of another autumn without NHL hockey." The survey shows that "more than half of the 1,001 Canadians polled said they are not interested in hockey's latest labour dispute." Fans in "small-market NHL cities (39 per cent) such as Winnipeg, Ottawa and Calgary actually miss the NHL more than in bigger cities across the country" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/19).
WE'VE GOT YOU COVERED: ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang reported the NHLPA has "stepped in to cover premiums for players during the lockout." Sources said that the measure was taken "after the NHL asked insurers to cancel all coverage for players once the lockout began." The union will "provide coverage to players and their families, including medical and dental, disability insurance, life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, and spousal life insurance." However, the NHLPA "advises players on the need to procure additional insurance if one should choose to play overseas" (ESPNNY.com, 9/18).