NHL CBA Talks Progressing As Bettman Projects Calm Confidence
The NHL and NHLPA have been "negotiating since February" on a new CBA, and talks have been "generally positive," according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "declined to say what's being discussed because he doesn't feel it's appropriate to negotiate publicly and he doesn't want to influence the NHLPA's decision." Bettman said, "Whatever issues we've had, we've decided that it is more important in the foreseeable future to have labor peace and build on what we have going." Player salaries are "growing under the current CBA," which could expire as soon as September of '20 pending an opt-out clause that the players must decide on by next Sunday. Still, the players have some "much-publicized issues," such as Olympic participation. Also, players "hate the current escrow system." Bettman said that there are "steps that could be taken to reduce the sting of escrow, 'but it has to be joint problem solving.'" Regarding the Olympics, Bettman "hasn't changed his mind about allowing players to go." He said, "It's a distraction with no benefit, and I'm not talking financial benefits. That has never been the issue. It disrupts the competitiveness of the season, and the [IOC] does not allow us to do anything to promote we are there" (USA TODAY, 9/6).
TIME IS NOW? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote the two parties are sitting down Friday in N.Y. to "continue negotiations," and if they "extend into Saturday or Sunday, that will be a very, very good thing." Talks "could go any number of ways, including a Memorandum of Understanding that would set out the framework for a new deal." While that is "not likely to happen this quickly, there was a sense after the NHLPA met with 49 players ... that it is indeed a possibility, albeit a remote one." Regardless, there is "more momentum for a deal earlier in the process this time around than there ever has been in any of the previous negotiations" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/5).
CALM, COOL, COLLECTED: In Toronto, Michael Traikos writes there "might be a labour war brewing" between the NHL and NHLPA, but observers "wouldn't know it by listening to Bettman" speak Thursday. Bettman is "playing peacemaker," a "new look for a commissioner who's overseen three labour stoppages in his 25 years on the job." Bettman said, "The puck is in their end. We made the decision that we thought was the best decision for the game, namely labour peace. And it's now up to the Players' Association to decide what they want to do on the 15th." Traikos writes this "feels different than previous lockouts" (TORONTO SUN, 9/6). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Campbell wrote this was a "much more relaxed and affable Bettman" than seen in "previous showdowns." At this stage in negotiations in the past, Bettman "wore a game face and spent much of his time sharpening his claws." But with the "positive momentum he and the union have fostered," Bettman goes into negotiations Friday "feeling downright fuzzy." The league has "laid its cards out by not exercising its right to opt out of this CBA by Sept. 1 and now the NHLPA faces the same decision" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/5).