After a very brief meeting between Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr and two other respective associates Wednesday morning, the two sides hoped to progress 24 hours later. They didn’t. It was reported that just 90 minutes after negotiations began Thursday morning, the meeting was concluded.
As if the Commissioner’s gesture of leaving the building Wednesday afternoon, prior to major negotiations, wasn’t a bad enough sign. Yet another week has gone by with zero progress. Bettman appeared evidently frustrated with the focus on revenue sharing, says the inability to come to any kind of compromise on “fundamental economic issues” are at the root of the problem. He says until they are resolved, no progress on any front will be made. The Commissioner responded to the media after the short meeting..
“Whether or not we’re talking about these contract or system issues, or if we’re talking about revenue sharing, it’s clear that we’re at a point that it’s going to be very difficult to move this process along until we deal with the fundamental economic issues. Certainly as it relates to the fundamental economic issue we are far apart both in terms of magnitude and structure. That is something we’re trying to get a handle on.”
Bettman also stated that the players are looking for a more flexible system, in terms of contracts, while the owners are on the opposite end. He says that the system they envisioned eight years ago did not call for flexibility.
Bettman also noted that the players had all year to negotiate, but decided to wait until the end of the season to negotiate.
“They’ve said publicly they’d be happy to keep playing under this deal even while we negotiate. While we were prepared to begin negotiating a year ago, the Union said it wasn’t ready until the end of June. So, you can’t negotiate with yourself, and my sense is that they prefer to keep things the way they are, and so that slows up the process.”
Boy, what a mess. It appears the two sides are still on opposite ends of the spectrum in every main aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Donald Fehr was quick to remind fans that if the lockout does occur, that it is the owners that have that ultimate ruling.
“If there’s going to be a lockout — and that’s something that the owners will choose or not choose — then you would have missed games, you would have lost revenue, you would have lost paycheques. But that doesn’t mean that the parties don’t understand going into it that that would be the case.”
He also added that the players are already taking an unfair hit due to the salary cap.
With less than a month until the deadline for a new CBA, things are looking pretty bleak. Essentially, the two sides have progressed on any major issue. Donald Fehr seems to think there’s still lots of time to work with and believes a deal can be reached.
The negotiations will take a four-day break to prepare for a Tuesday session, regarding hockey-related revenue sharing. Keep those fingers crossed hockey fans.