After 3 days, no change in NHL lockout

Gary Bettman isn't afraid to cancel the season, if the stalemate continues. He was the NHL commissioner when the 2004-05 season was canceled after the last lockout. MARY ALTAFFER / Associated Press
Gary Bettman isn't afraid to cancel the season, if the stalemate continues. He was the NHL commissioner when the 2004-05 season was canceled after the last lockout. MARY ALTAFFER / Associated Press
Posted: September 20, 2012

Day 3 of the NHL's lockout passed Tuesday with no end to the labor dispute between the players and owners in sight.

Both sides seem ready for a long, drawn-out battle, one that features the Fehr brothers - Donald and Steve - representing the players, and Gary Bettman and Bill Daly leading the owners.

Neither side is willing to make a bigger compromise on the main issues - how to divide hockey-related revenue (HRR), and how to help the small-market teams through increased revenue sharing.

Donald Fehr, executive director of the players association, is a heavy hitter who does not seem adverse to a long lockout if it will benefit the players in the long run.

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, is also someone who isn't afraid to play the waiting game. For proof, look at the cancellation of the 2004-05 season because of a lockout, after which the owners got concessions from the players - a salary cap and a 24 percent rollback in salaries.

So which side will cave in first? Some think it will be the owners because they will want to save the highly popular Winter Classic, scheduled for New Year's Day at Michigan Stadium.

When you consider the HRR proposals that have been bandied about, you can make a case for both sides' being stubborn.

The HRR is key because in the end, it will determine how high the salary cap (currently at $70.2 million) will go. The cap is expected to drop significantly, something the players don't want to happen.

The players received 57 percent of the HRR in the last collective-bargaining agreement, and the owners initially wanted that figure sliced to 43 percent. They have since increased their offers.

In their last proposal, the owners offered the players 49 percent during the first year of a six-year CBA, with the players' share dropping to 48 percent in the second year, and to 47 percent in the last four years.

The players want about 53 to 54 percent.

Based on the fact that NBA and NFL players get about 50 percent, NHL players may be reaching too high. The NHL Players Association has not countered the NHL's latest counter-offer.

Flyers center Danny Briere said that the players were insulted by the owners' proposal and that the owners "left for 30-40 minutes and came back, and it was just a hard number with no thought thrown into it."

After the players spent "so much time and work into finding something that could work for everybody, they just came back and said no," Briere said after working out at the Skate Zone with several teammates on Tuesday. "They went from 46 to 47 percent, basically. In our deal, there were trigger points in there . . . depending upon how everybody would do and getting them more money if they did really well in the revenue. If they didn't so well, we would give more.

"At the end of the day, [the owners] just turned around and said, 'No, this is what we want. We'll increase one percent.' "

A source close to the owners said that if there was a 50-50 split in HRR, there's a good chance the owners would agree to that aspect of the CBA.

"Honestly, I don't think that deal is available," Briere said. If it was, he said, "it's too early at this point to answer that."

Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr had informal talks Tuesday night that were not fruitful. No new meetings have been scheduled. The two men are key negotiators who set the table for the big players - Donald Fehr and Bettman.

The league says more than half of its 30 teams lost money last season, even though the NHL had a record $3.3 billion in revenue.

Staff reduced. The Associated Press reported that the Florida Panthers announced the layoffs of an unknown number of staff members Tuesday. The Panthers are believed to be the NHL's second team to publicly announce layoffs since the lockout began.

The Ottawa Senators already have had layoffs, and full-time employees have been placed on a reduced work week.

The Flyers have not announced any changes in staffing.

Quebec teams forming? Details still are being put together, but several French-Canadian players - including Briere, Claude Giroux, Max Talbot, and Bruno Gervais of the Flyers - could be playing charity games in Quebec during the lockout.

One of the two teams apparently would represent Quebec City and the other would represent Montreal, Briere said, adding that Talbot and Gervais were working on the particulars.

Briere said he was exploring the Quebec idea but might play in Switzerland, as he did during the 2004-05 lockout. He said Giroux, who was not one of the 10 Flyers/Phantoms at Tuesday's workout, also was looking into playing in the Quebec games.

NHL players will not make a lot of money "unless you go to Russia" and play, Briere said. "I remember the last lockout, going to Switzerland wasn't about making a lot of money; it was about living something special, a new experience, and also playing some competitive hockey. That's the way I see it once again."

Forwards Jakub Voracek and Ruslan Fedotenko are playing in the KHL during the lockout, and other Flyers such as Scott Hartnell and Giroux are considering European offers.

Hartnell, Briere, Jody Shelley, Nick Grossmann, Matt Read, Kimmo Timonen, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Erik Gustafsson were the Flyers at Tuesday's practice. The Phantoms' Niko Hovinen and Oliver Lauridsen also were at practice, along with former Flyer Justin Williams, who won the Stanley Cup last season with Los Angeles - and had the Cup on display this summer at an Atlantic City casino, not far from his Ventnor home.

Former Flyer Todd Fedoruk, an assistant with Trenton of the ECHL, ran the practice. The players paid about $300 to rent the ice. Hartnell said he put the week's ice rental on his credit card.

Game canceled. Thursday's rookie game between the Flyers and host Washington Capitals was canceled.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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