TORONTO -- With one month to go before the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires, the league and players seem no closer to a deal than when talks began in June.http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=403156
In fact, the divide may have grown even further.
It took commissioner Gary Bettman less than 24 hours to conclude that the first proposal from the NHL Players' Association held little appeal for the owners.
"There's still a wide gap between us with not much time to go," Bettman said Wednesday.
"I do think it's fair to say that the sides are still apart -- far apart -- and have different views of the world and the issues," he added.
They were hardly encouraging comments for those hoping to see the league avoid its second lockout in as many negotiations, and the third on Bettman's watch. The current CBA expires Sept. 15 and Bettman has already made it clear that the league will enact a work stoppage if a new deal isn't in place by then.
On Tuesday, the union put forth a proposal that included a smaller percentage of revenues for players over the next three seasons in exchange for an expanded revenue sharing program to help struggling teams. The NHLPA estimated that players would be giving up US$465 million in salaries if the league continued on its pace of seven per cent growth each season.
However, that math didn't add up for the league.
"I think it's fair to say that we value the proposal and what it means in terms of its economics differently than the players' association does," said Bettman. "I think there still are a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently. I'm not sure that there has yet been a recognition of the economics in our world -- and I mean the greater world and the sports industry, taking into account what recently happened with the NFL and the NBA."
Both of those sports leagues went through recent lockouts before ultimately seeing the players' share in revenue reduced. The NHL's initial proposal called for a significant reduction from 57 per cent to 43 per cent, when factoring in changes to the way revenue is calculated.
It would be nowhere near that drastic in the offer put forth from the NHLPA.
Donald Fehr, the union's executive director, bristled at the parallels Bettman drew to other sports leagues -- "every sport has its own economics," he said -- and indicated that the gap in talks was created by the NHL's initial proposal in July.
"There's a pretty substantial monetary gulf which is there and when you start with the proposal the owners made how could it be otherwise?" said Fehr. "I mean consider what the proposal was: It is 'let's move salaries back to where they were before the (2004-05) lockout started, back to the last time.' That's basically what it was.
"'We had a 24 per cent reduction last time, let's have another one.' That was the proposal. That's what creates the gulf."
The sides broke off from talks with two completely different offers on the table and no meaningful negotiation sessions planned for a week. They'll gather again in Toronto on Aug. 22.
Fehr was disappointed the owners weren't more receptive to what he viewed as two significant concessions in the NHLPA's offer -- the fact it included the hard salary cap won by owners in the last round of negotiations and called for a drag on the amount of money they're paid.
The strong words and wide gap left many feeling like another lockout was in the offing. There wasn't much Bettman could offer when asked what he might say to fans concerned about the possibility.
"I don't have an appetite either to not have hockey, so we're all in agreement on that," Bettman said. "I know what the game means and I know how important it is for our franchises and our game to be healthy from an economic standpoint and we're working very, very hard.
"It takes two sides to make a deal, it takes two sides to negotiate and it takes two sides if it all goes bad. We're working very hard hopefully to keep it from going bad."
I am pretty POed that the PA took so long to respond to the NHL's offer, but I am once again more angry with the owners. They are being so damn greedy; if you wanted to make more money, you should have hopped on board with an NFL or MLB team. The turnaround on NHL teams are not fantastic.
I was confident about the league starting on time until today... I think neither side will budge much more and they are apparently still very far off. I liked the NHLPA's proposal (what I saw of it). The revenue share makes a lot of sense to me, as well as the luxury tax. I also liked how they didn't just throw out a ridiculously one-sided deal like the NHL; they offered a few solutions that were good for both sides.
Then again, I'm just a dude sitting on his couch.