Donald Fehr spoke to the media on Thursday evening and discussed a CBA proposal made by the NHLPA that seemed like it could lead to a lockout-ending resolution. The league rejected the offer in just a matter of minutes, according to Pierre LeBrun of TSN.
As if that wasn't bad enough, there is no knowledge of when negotiations will resume. It's safe to say that this is the low point of the 2012 NHL lockout.
Fehr says NHL left a voicemail message saying NHLPA counter wasn't acceptable. No need to stick around today or Friday. Talks broken for now— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
Fehr says right now it doesn't appear labor impasse will be resolved soon— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly spoke to the media following Fehr's press conference, and they were visibly irate with the players' union. Here is some of what they told reporters (via LeBrun):
Bettman confirms the elements the league added to the table this week are now OFF the table— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
Bettman says the owners pushed hard on new deal last night. Bettman says union response last night was "shockingly silent."— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
Bettman says sense of optimism "almost inexplixably" disappeared Wednesday afternoon after such a good day Tuesday— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
Bettman and Daly also talked about a number of other issues (via Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press).
Daly confirms league dropped proposed changes to entry level, arbitration and unrestricted free agency. Now off the table.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 7, 2012
Interesting that Bettman said 48 games is as low as the league will go. Leaves about a month, maybe a bit more, to make a deal.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 7, 2012
When Fehr explained the union's proposal to the league, it sounded like a reasonable offer that could result in a resolution. LeBrun has the details:
Fehr says players proposed 8-year CBA with opt-out after Year 6— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 6, 2012
Fehr feels both sides should be able to reach a deal given what players have come back with. Feels there's a complete agreement on "dollars"— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 6, 2012
When Fehr says he thinks there's agreement on total dollars, that includes accepting NHL's Make Whole offer he says— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 6, 2012
Fehr says he believes there's agreement on pension issue— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 6, 2012
Finding a solution to the economic issues has always been a major obstacle for the two sides to overcome.
Fehr's optimism on the economic issues being very close made the league's quick rejection of the union's proposal a bit surprising.
With "make whole" coming off the table, the players' hopes of saving anywhere close to the full value of their current contracts are quickly fading. This was a huge issue for the NHLPA, and now the league has gotten rid of it.
Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington pointed out another issue that the two sides just cannot agree on.
I'm told owners are saying they want a 10-year deal or no deal. Players want 8 years with opt-out at Year 6— Chuck Gormley (@ChuckGormleyCSN) December 7, 2012
Bettman also explained why the league wanted such a long agreement (via Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports), and it's hard to disagree with him.
Bettman: The key for all of us, particularly the owners, was to have a long-term deal. That's what fans, game, players, partners deserve.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) December 7, 2012
How critical of an issue are term limits for the league? According to Daly, it's a major one for the owners (via LeBrun).
Daly says term limit on player contracts is so important to league it's "the hill we'll die on."— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
The refusal from both sides to do what's right for the sport and close the gaps in the differences they have is embarrassing.
Could the players be thinking that the league really wants to play soon, and that the union can get a more favorable CBA offer closer to a possible deadline to save the season?
From deep inside players side: "We were ready to play again. But Don came in (Wed.) and told us we could get more and to hold out"— adater (@adater) December 7, 2012
Ron Hainsey: someone from ownership told players Wednesday night that bringing Fehr back into the room "could be a dealbreaker." Amazing.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) December 7, 2012
If what Dater has reported is true, then we may know part of the reason why Bettman looked so angry at his press conference.
Could the NHL be the side that is the most willing to make a deal? It's certainly possible. It's hard to imagine Fehr giving up until he thinks his union has the absolute best proposal from the owners in front of them. The players clearly trust Fehr if they took this kind of advice from him.
Make no mistake, though, the players deserve an equal amount of the blame here. The union's unwillingness to accept contract term limits is absurd because the NBA and NFL players have them, and it hasn't hurt player salaries from rising over the last decade.
The players also shouldn't be fighting so hard to prevent a 10- or 8-year deal from being agreed to. The league needs a long agreement so its fans don't have to deal with this frustration time and time again.
It would be incredibly foolish to let the current gap between the NHL and NHLPA result in all December games being cancelled.
Yes, there are some differences that both sides are still unwilling to make small concessions on, and a few others where they are far apart, but they are too close to risk another season.
We can expect that more games could be cancelled at some point in the next week or so. All games in December will likely be the next group of games to be lost.
However, there isn't a deadline for a CBA to save season yet (via LeBrun):
Bettman says league has not set a drop-dead date for cancelling season, not even internally— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 7, 2012
The week started with a good amount of optimism, but as we have seen so many times since this lockout started, the good vibes came crashing down in a hurry.
The best fans in sports don't deserve this situation. Unfortunately, no one should be surprised that the NHL has another season in danger of being lost because of a lockout.
How many fans and sponsors will the league drive away before they realize the amount of damage being done to the sport?