NHL and players union 'far apart' after talks

Union chief Donald Fehr expressed disappointment after the NHL rejected the NHLPA's proposal.
Union chief Donald Fehr expressed disappointment after the NHL rejected the NHLPA's proposal. (LOUIS LANZANO / Associated Press)
Posted: November 22, 2012

There were early indications of positive developments as the NHL and NHL Players' Association met Wednesday morning in New York. But when an afternoon session ended, it was clear the sides weren't close to a labor agreement.

The NHL rejected the union proposal, and no new talks were scheduled.

"I'm disappointed," Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, said of the league's reaction. He added that the NHL had offered no reciprocity on major issues.

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, told reporters that he was happy the NHLPA made a proposal but that the sides were "far apart."

Bettman, ridiculed on Twitter by some NHL players after the meeting, said that the league already has made its best offer and that some owners want him to take it off the table.

The NHLPA moved off its position on guaranteed players' share dollars and shifted more to the owners' demand of a percentage base in the revenue split, according to Fehr.

Fehr said his side's offer was "about as good as we can do."

If so, the entire season may be wiped out for the second time since 2004-05.

The NHLPA claimed it was prepared to go to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue (HRR) immediately, but the NHL balked at the union's math.

The players want $393 million over four years as part of a "make whole" proposal to pay for salaries. That increases the league's $211 million proposal by $182 million.

But when the "make whole" provision is included - in the first year, the NHLPA wants the league to contribute $182 million - the HRR is drastically changed.

TSN's Bob McKenzie estimated that the players' HRR share in the first year would be 55 percent, and that it would be about 54 percent in the second year, 52 percent in the third year, and 50.3 percent in the fourth year.

The NHLPA proposed that the salary cap not fall below $67.25 million at any time during the five-year deal. Surprisingly, the players' union proposed that clubs take a cap hit on contracts in the minors of more than $1 million, such as the New York Rangers' Wade Redden ($6.5M cap hit).

In a letter to the union, Fehr said, "We have protected player rights by refusing to accept their proposals restricting free agency and salary arbitration."

Wednesday was the 67th day of the lockout; games have been canceled through Nov. 30.

Bettman said that the business is losing $18 million to $20 million per day, and that players are losing $8 million to $10 million per day.

During the news conference, an angry fan - identified as Jaymes Hall, 41, of Lancaster, according to the New York Daily News - had a verbal exchange with Bettman.

Bettman would not give a deadline for a deal to be done to save this season. The league is expected to cancel the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, perhaps as early as Friday.

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

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