NHL Season in Trouble as Latest CBA Talks Produce No Results

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IOctober 18, 2012

Many hockey fans were optimistic that the NHL and NHLPA would be able to come closer to a new collective bargaining agreement during their meeting in Toronto on Thursday, but after about an hour of discussions, league commissioner Gary Bettman explained that the two sides are still far apart.

 

UPDATE: Thursday, October 18 at 6:03 p.m. ET by Nicholas Goss

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr spoke to the media Thursday evening after the three proposals that his union made to the NHL resulted in no progress being made toward a new agreement.

Fehr gave a breakdown of all three proposals made today. Here are some helpful tweets to help explain them (via Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada and Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period).

Proposal 1

Fehr insists that depending on revenue growth, NHLPA's first proposal does go down to 50 percent eventually

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Proposal 2

Fehr says No 2 proposal gets owners down to 50 percent with "only five percent growth"

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Option 2: let's use owners 5 per cent growth number. Instead of 57 per cent of that, we take 24 per cent of that growth...

— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 18, 2012

In proposal 2, they'd use the 5% growth # and players would take that as part of the overall split, which would get to overall 50/50 split

— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 18, 2012

Proposal 3

Fehr on No 3 proposal - players to go 50/50 as long as owners promise to honor all contracts that were signed by players

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Fehr: We really think (option 3) is fair. Couldn't be more balanced.

— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) October 18, 2012

More from LeBrun and James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail.

Fehr says all 3 proposals today dealt solely with players' share of HRR and core economics, didn't deal with other systemic issues

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Fehr says they haven't gotten to discussing issues beyond player share. Term limits etc. not touched (and still very contentious).

— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 18, 2012

Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean points out one stumbling block in these negotiations.

Seems like today we learned both sides got to 50-50. The major issue now is escrow. How can they get around this? Is it possible?

— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) October 18, 2012

After looking over these tweets, one proposal that seems reasonable is option number three, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly doesn't think the third proposal was explained properly (Quotes via Dan Rosen of NHL.com)

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Union's third proposal, which Fehr said called for a 50-50 split of HRR after all contracts are honored:

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 18, 2012

"The so called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players' Association earlier today is being misrepresented...

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 18, 2012

"It's not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely, a 56 to 57% deal in Yr. 1 and never gets to 50% during the proposed 5-yr term of the agreement.

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 18, 2012

"The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside the players' share. In effect, the Union is proposing...

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 18, 2012

"to change the accounting rules to be able to say 50-50, when really it is not. ...

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 18, 2012

"The Union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did." End of Daly quote.

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 18, 2012

If the third offer, as Daly explains, never reaches 50 percent and includes the players' share of HRR in year one being similar to what they got throughout the duration of the previous CBA, then it's not surprising that this proposal was denied in a hurry.

Right now, we don't have all the details needed to fully understand how fair the third offer is, but there is a chance we may see these proposals at some point (via Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press).

Donald Fehr says NHLPA hasn't decided if it will go public with these proposals.

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 18, 2012

What's clear from the meetings this week is that the owners wanted their offer from Tuesday to be an "end" while the players saw it as a "starting point" to more negotiations.

Both sides don't seem willing to negotiate far from what they have proposed for months, and the NHL definitely doesn't seem ready to make any significant concessions beyond what they made in Tuesday's offer.

Here are two quotes from Fehr involving the league's willingness to negotiate (via Johnston and Michael Grange of Sportsnet).

Donald Fehr says union was told NHL only willing to tweak Tuesday's offer around the edges.

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 18, 2012

Fehr -- the vibe we got was unless we were ready to signtheir deal, don't bother us #NHLPA #NHL

— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) October 18, 2012

Fehr -- our three proposals were rejected in about 15minutes and we were told they'd made their best offer #NHLPA #NHL

— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) October 18, 2012

Several players talked to reporters after Fehr finished speaking, and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby spoke about today's meeting.

Crosby: "It doesn't look good right now" (based on the NHL's response to the NHLPA's proposals)

— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 18, 2012

The players clearly want all of the money they signed for under the previous CBA, and right now, it doesn't seem like there is a way to do this that both sides think is fair.

The NHLPA is still angry over how much they gave up during the last lockout, and understandably, it has made them less willing to make concessions during this work stoppage.

To get a deal done, the players will have to make more concessions, or the owners will have to negotiate off of the NHLPA's three offers.

Unfortunately, neither of these scenarios seems likely to happen right now.

---End of Update---

 

Here are some of Bettman's comments, via ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

Bettman confirms NHLPA made three counter proposals. Says none of them "even began to approach 50-50." Not encouraged

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Bettman calls it a "step backward."

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Bettman says today's offers "nowhere close" to what league offered Tuesday

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

"We were done in an hour today because there was really nothing there." - Bettman

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

"I don't know what the next step is. I'm obviously very disappointed." - Bettman

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 18, 2012

Bettman also provided an update on the Winter Classic (via Michael Grange of Sportsnet and James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail):

Bettman -- the decision on Winter Classic is rapidly approaching

— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) October 18, 2012

Bettman says at some point in near future they'll have to start committing money to Winter Classic and a decision will have to be made.

— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 18, 2012

What do Thursday's events mean for the rest of the season?

All regular-season games have already been canceled through October 24, and expect more to be canceled in the immediate future unless talks surprisingly resume in the next week. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, more games could be lost as soon as Friday.

Don't be surprised if the NHL responds to todays meeting by announcing the cancellation of a big chunk of games...tomorrow.

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 18, 2012

The chances of having an 82-game season are as slim as you could imagine, but more importantly, the chances that we even see hockey at all this winter might have taken a turn for the worst.

A major difference between the proposals that the NHLPA brought to the table on Thursday and the NHL's offer from earlier this week is how long it will take for each side to split hockey-related revenues (HRR) 50-50 (via Katie Strang of ESPN). 

#CBA Of the multiple (4) proposals discussed on PA"s conference call, all include gradual step-downs to 50-50.

— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) October 18, 2012

The players don't want to accept a seven-percent reduction from their previous share of 57 percent of HRR in Year 1 of the new CBA. However, the owners seem unwilling to accept a deal that includes the players receiving anything above 50 percent of HRR in the first few years of the next agreement.

For the owners to be frustrated with each proposal made by the players on Thursday, it's hard to imagine that the NHLPA crafted their offers off of Tuesday's proposal from the league.

One disappointing outcome of this bargaining session was revealed when Bettman told reporters that “It’s clear we’re not speaking the same language.”

For the two sides to not be speaking the same language at this stage of the process is frustrating, disappointing and a little bit frightening.

As for the players' response to this meeting, we likely won't be hearing from the NHLPA until Thursday evening.

Reportedly we won't hear from Fehr until after 5 pm conference call with players. Does the fun ever start? #NHLCBA

— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) October 18, 2012

Be sure to check back to this article later for a complete update with analysis and reaction after NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr speaks to the media.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.