There was a sense of hope entering labor talks on Thursday in Toronto, but it was quickly replaced with frustration after the NHL Players’ Association tabled three counter-proposals which were immediately dismissed by the league.
As time starts to dwindle down to make a deal, there is less likely a chance for the fans to see a full 82-game regular season after talks broke off after an hour. Commissioner Gary Bettman called the day “thoroughly disappointing,” and promptly headed back to New York.
There was some hope that maybe a season could start on November 2nd, after the owners tabled a 50-50 split of revenues as part of a deal. But, after yesterday’s meetings, it was clear that both sides are still far apart and not even speaking the same language.
“None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach (a) 50-50 (revenue split), either at all or for some long period of time,” Bettman said. “It’s clear we’re not speaking the same language.”
However, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr disagreed, saying that two of the proposals the players made would see the players take a fixed amount of revenue, which would turn into an approximate 50-50 split over a five-year term of the deal provided league revenues continued to grow.
Without getting into specifics of all three deals, the players’ final approach they presented to the owners would ask for a 50-50 split of hockey related revenue, but the league would have to honor all existing contracts at full value. Later the league would issue a press release on the third proposal saying, “It is not a 50-50 deal.”
The NHLPA put on a show of force yesterday at the meetings as star players like Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, and Eric Staal were among the 18 union members in attendance. Like the leaders of the two sides involved in negotiations, the players do not seem that optimistic.
Sidney Crosby, one of the biggest stars expressed his disappointment after the meetings were over. “You come with three proposals thinking you’ve got a chance to get a little momentum and get some progress and it’s shut down within 10 minutes. It’s not even given a day to think about or crunch numbers it’s shut down within minutes. That doesn’t seem like a group that’s willing to negotiate.”
The union’s proposals did not address any of the player contracting issues that were included in the most recent NHL offer. This has left both sides with a wide gap to bridge in a short period. Bettman indicated that in order to start games on November 2nd an agreement had to be in place by October 25th.
With neither side on speaking terms after yesterday’s talks, according to TSN’s hockey analyst Darren Dreger, “Don’t be surprised if the NHL responds to the meeting by announcing the cancellation of a big chunk of games.”
If there is this much distrust between the two parties, the league could essentially cancel the entire season today or within the coming days. However, that deadline is down the road and there is time for parties to get back to the table and salvage a partial season. The biggest games on the NHL schedule could be on the chopping block in the next several weeks.
The league will soon be faced with the reality of canceling the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day along with the NHL All Star Game. Bettman said, “The date for making a decision on the Winter Classic is rapidly approaching since we [league] have to pour a significant amount of money into the event.”
The fans are starting to get fed up with the whole process. It is mind numbing too many fans that a deal cannot be reached to salvage a season. The biggest mistake the NHL and NHLPA could make would be wiping out another season because that would essentially kill all the momentum the National Hockey League has built over the last seven years.
Fans are tired of the blame game and all rhetoric that goes along with collective bargaining agreement talks. For once, it is time for everyone involved in the talks to keep quiet on what is going on until real progress is made.
The players have been locked out since September 15, and there are no signs there will be hockey anytime soon.