After meeting for four consecutive days, the NHL and NHLPA have halted progress and taken a break in the action.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations showed promise early in the week, and through three days there had been no signs of frustration. After each side presented and reviewed the other’s proposals, the league and owners had shown they were willing to cooperate and keep their schedules cleared for future meetings. That all changed Friday.
Both sides remained determined to get a deal done all week, but after Friday’s meeting a difference of $380 million sent the red tape to the negotiating tables.
“We looked at some of the numbers on the various proposals and we thought we were much closer together on the structure of a deal than the suggestions were,” said NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr. “They came back to us and said, ‘No, we’re very, very far apart on the structure of a deal.”‘
Fehr also killed rumours which claimed owners were being compliant with the players’ current contracts.
“If the notion is that they are honouring all of the contracts and everybody’s going to get paid everything they were supposed to be paid according to the letter of the contracts, it’s of course not true and never has been,” said Fehr. “I don’t quite know where that notion came from.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman remained very political in his comments Friday.
“I don’t want to either raise or lower expectations,” said Bettman. “I won’t be happy until we get to the end result and that means we’re playing again. (We’re prepared to do) whatever it takes, we’re available and, as I said, we’re waiting to hear back from the players’ association in terms of when they’ll be ready.”
Fehr was the center of attention later on in the week as reporters got a hold of leaked information which prompted the league to question his leadership. Fehr was quick to fire back, mentioning that only four of the owners have been present in the meetings all week.
The owners’ negotiating committee isn’t feeling too optimistic for the time being, as they returned home following the unsuccessful meeting.
Now that all the utter bad news is out of the way, there does appear to be relative cooperation between the two sides, in terms of resuming negotiations at some point. Unlike the last break they took, they are looking to have a set of scheduled meetings in place before recessing once again.
The goal, now, is to resume negotiations. However, the lockout will not end until the sides can manage to find common ground on contract structure. Fehr and the union have stood by their original statement that they shouldn’t have to take concessions in this area because of the heavy impact the players will be taking on in revenue sharing.
The league has cancelled games through November and a shortened campaign remains the best possible situation for the 2012-13 season.
The positive note here is that Bettman and Fehr could be meeting throughout the weekend. This will depend on what the player’s association’s next course of action will be.
However, this appears to be a best case scenario at this point.