September 12, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHLPA executive director Don Fehr during a press conference at the 2012 NHLPA summer player meetings at the Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

NHL-NHLPA Approaching Eleventh Hour, Lockout Imminent

With the NHL on the verge of its third straight work stoppage under Commissioner Gary Bettman, the players and owners are not expected to meet today after a brief get-together this morning.  Despite the ever-ticking clock that is working against them, there will be no ‘last-ditched’ effort to reach a deal before midnight.

NHL Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly, told TSN, “We talked with the Union this morning and in light of the fact that they have nothing new to offer, or any substantive response to our last proposal, there would be nothing gained by convening a bargaining session at this time.  I’m sure that we will remain in contact in the coming days.”

Bettman has made it clear he warned the players as soon as last November that the league would not operate under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.  To the players choice, negotiations never began until after the season’s conclusion.  And with virtually no progress throughout the summer, here we stand.. face to face with yet another lockout.

The two sides have failed to agree on any main issues, the first of which being the Hockey Related Revenues.  The players currently hold 57% to the owners’ 43%.  This is likely the primary reason there will be no agreement any time soon.  If the players and owners can’t agree on the main issues, how can they work out any real details?  There are other undermined topics worthy of note, such as contract conditions and salary cap altercations.  Topics that have a lot of bearing in the resolution to the HRR talks.

The players have said they feel as though they burdened the load in the current CBA from the last lockout when they took on the salary cap along with a 24% rollback in contracts.  They believe the taking from the pockets of players is not the way to resolve core economic issues.  The players are requesting a minimum of $1.8 billion in salaries per year, rather than a percentage-based deal.  Needless to say, the owners beg to differ.

September 13, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

The league’s current proposal outlines a steady rise in owner shares of HRR, eventually reaching 49% by the sixth and final year.  Bettman announced the deal will be effectively removed from the table after midnight tonight.  The reason being that the league would face new economic concerns in the case of a lockout.

This isn’t particularly good news for hockey fans.  This likely means the owners’ future proposals will be less player-friendly than the offer that is currently on the table.  With the players determined to take a minimal blow, we could be in for the long haul.

Unlike the previous lockout in 2004-05, the players union appears to be completely unified.  Executive Director, Donald Fehr, remains stern yet understanding of the owners and their position.  However, he does remind fans and media that a lockout is ultimately the NHL’s call to make.  The NHLPA says it is working towards a deal that would avoid a similar circumstance by the end of the next CBA.

Though the league sees lack of progress on their side of demands, the players have gotten the league to raise their HRR demand in each of the three league proposals.  The first of which the league wanted the players to cut sharing to 43%, then to 46%, and now up to 49%.  Despite the players still taking a major cut in the current proposal, they’ve effectively minimized the margin every time.

Before casting a grim look upon the inevitable work stoppage, just remember the lockout in September, 2004 that did not see the two sides meet until December.  The league and players are far more cooperative with each other now than they were eight years ago and will likely continue to work at a new deal on a consistent basis throughout the stoppage.

The league will effectively lockout the players at midnight tonight if no new deal is reached.


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