Negotiations between NHL, NHLPA fall apart

Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman held dueling press conferences on Thursday night, and the news was not good. After initially suggesting both sides were close, Don Fehr announced that the NHL had rejected the players’ associations’ latest offer. Gary Bettman followed Fehr up, and announced that the NHL was removing all of the concessions placed on the table in the last meeting.

It was a bizarre evening, and represented an incredibly strange conclusion to a series of talks between owners and players that had initially seemed to create some traction between the two sides.

Donald Fehr’s press conference opened on a hopeful note. He detailed an NHLPA proposal that had been made to the league, and which contained the following details:

  • Agreement on the dollars presented in the NHL’s last "Make Whole" offer
  • An eight-year CBA term with a mutual out-clause after six years, rather than the ten-year term presented by the league with a mutual out-clause after eight years.
  • Eight-year term limit on contracts
  • No greater year-to-year variance than 25% at any point of the deals

Fehr concluded his statement by emphasizing how close both sides were, and that an agreement could be reached very quickly. 

But no sooner had Fehr left the podium than word came that he was about to return. The NHLPA – in the person of Steve Fehr – had received a voice mail from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, with news that the league had rejected the NHLPA’s proposal and that there was no purpose to continuing the meetings; he added that unspecified measures had been taken off the table. Then news came that Bettman and Daly would be holding their own press conference.

Bettman’s press conference showed the commissioner at his most emotional, angrily refuting NHLPA statements. Bettman explained that the league’s offer last night had not been intended as a negotiable proposal, and that all the NHL wanted was a yes or a no answer. Instead, the NHLPA chose to counter.

Bettman spoke at length, but conveyed a basic message: the NHL had made all the concessions they were going to make, and owners were incredibly angry at their latest proposal being treated the way it was. He added that the league was withdrawing its latest offer. He further railed against the NHLPA’s assertion that the two sides were close. He and Daly made comments about "a line in the sand" and "hill to die on."

The NHL followed up Bettman’s press conference by releasing statements from ownership.

The bottom line: negotiations have fallen apart, and the NHL is now moving away from its last offer.

It’s unclear exactly what happens next, but a move to the courts would seem to be the most likely outcome.

One other thing to emerge from Bettman’s press conference: he says he does not have a drop-dead date on the season. But he also said he can’t imagine playing less than the 48 games they played in 1994-95.

  • 24% body fat

    Idiots! Find common ground on the CBA length, the contract term limit, and the variance year to year!!!!

    >9 years & 7 yr opt out

    >7 yrs contract lenght

    >10-15% year to year variance.

    Put in 2 more frigging hours and agree on these terms, and given that you’ve agreed on 50/50 and the ‘make whole’…..lo and behold you’ve got the framework of a deal.

    Even a layperson can see that both sides WILL NEVER get back what they lose. For the players it’s the salary they stand to lose when this season is gone – it’s never coming back. For the owners it’s a season of lost revenues PLUS the spectre of league sponsors (rightly) demanding repayment of funds and suing for same. For both sides, it’s a hugely diminished revenue stream if the season’s gone and there’s no play until sometime the next season. League revenues at restart will already be devastated even if they play this year….and most markets in the league are going to be very, very quiet if the league doesn’t operate this season at all. It may take the entire length of the CBA to recover to square one.

    Enough of the pissing contests, you’re all losers in this and losing more every single day this continues. Be men and find the common ground. It’s a pathetic display.

    I think the rank & file on both sides (especially the PA) need to take a hard look at where their respective leadership groups are taking them. This is approaching the precipice.

  • Derzie

    The players are offered billions of dollars, a decade of CBA peace, pampered lives, fair contracts that the players don’t have to even honour, pension plan, every perk known to man. How can any reasonable person turn that down? It is all about ‘winning’. If you listened to Bettman tonight, who I normally despise, and was not in agreement, you weren’t listening. Fehr is the cancer splitting this league apart. He wants Bettman’s head as a trophy. He is using the player’s competitive nature to support his evil plan.

  • T__Bone88

    Lock them in a room (for 100 days if neccesary) until a friggen deal is made. This is an absolute joke! The NHL and the players are complete scumbags and greedy pricks. I could use alot of foul language to describe how I feel. This whole thing is a complete joke and everyone involved should be fired.

    Honestly make an all Canadian based hockey league with no salaries and televise it to the Canadians and get on with life its a god damn sport that people want to watch.

    We dont want to watch and listen to millionaires whine about dollars.

    COMPLETE FRIGGEN JOKE!!!!

  • canuck31003

    If the purpose of the league is to provide entertainment, they are doing a great job notwithstanding the fact that they are not operating. TV stations report every day about the progress or lack thereof of negotiations. We have villians in Fehr and Bettman. You might even, borrowing from broader Pop Culture, identify as “Team Fehr” or “Team Bettman”. There are a host of supporting characters on each team, each with their own personalities. We can and do cheer for our own side, criticize the other side (“what a bunch of morons”). Most importantly, we can and obviously do engage emotionally with the process. For entertainment value, this is maybe a little formulaic, but all of the ingredients are there for a classic drama.

    We should be happy, as consumers wanting to be entertained, that we get all of this for free!

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Please cancel the season! I hate soap operas! That’s why I watch sports!!! Just kill 2012-13 already!

    Note: it’s embarrassing when a bunch of Internet bloggers and posters are smarter than an NBA commissioner and a MLB union rep. I side with the Nation!

  • canuck31003

    My relatively uninformed two cents:

    -no contract term limits;
    -give the NHL whatever variance limit (5%?) they want;

    -allow owners to buy out limited number of contracts, without affecting cap, but they have to pay contract in full. eg. if they signed for 20 yrs, $100 million, at the end of the day the bought out player still gets $100 million;

    -bought out player become UFA with immediate effect no matter what stage of his career/age.

  • canuck31003

    I am a hockey fan.

    I am now finding myself happy when they do not reach a deal. If the players can’t all speak up and have a vote I think I would rather see them all lose a year of employment.

    As far as I am concerned the players side is making terrible decisions for the majority of its membership and I want them to have to live with those decisions.

    Unfortunate for those that will lose their NHL career during this lockout but those supporting role players should be very vocal during this time and not worry about loyalty to the star players.

    Sidney Crosby and company will not be sending you cheques in the mail next year when they are still making the big bucks and half of you are no longer employed by the NHL.

  • @dave lumley

    I know you oilers fans don’t read much but if you actually read what I said you’d think revenue sharing was good. I said we had to move teams like pheonix, this includes all the other teams dumping money down the drain but pheonix is the worst so they where who I picked. Greater revenue sharing would mean that the board of governors would be all over Bettman to fix issues like this. They wouldn’t be ok with putting teams in these markets. The reason they don’t care is because they get the huge relocation or expansion payments from the new owners when they move a team or get an expansion club. Then they can use the excuse of teams losing money to hammer down the share of revenue the players are getting and then they can make a ton more. If revenue sharing does not go up they have virtually no incentive to make the league healthy and loads of incentive to let it go bad so in the next CBA they can take even more from the players. This can happen since the NHL does not have a mority rules type of system, they only need 8 votes to make something happen. You can see the problem with this

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    The contract term limits are being proposed by the owners to protect themselves from their GMs, who are crafty and only recently discovered the back-diving contract scheme for cap circumvention. This seems obvious to me.

    The problem though is not the length of the contract, but the relative performance of the player throughout the entire length of the contract. Exhibit A, Scott Gomez. Compare his 2010/2011 stats to Jannik Hansen’s (last year Gomez only played 38 games so we’ll use the previous year).

    Gomez – 80 games, 38 pts, 7.4 million cap hit
    Hansen – 82 games, 39 pts, 0.8 million cap hit

    That is rediculous. Gomez is the poster boy for over valued contracts. This is what the owners/GM really don’t want. They don’t want overpaid players. If Gomez put up 70+ pts, nobody would be complaining and Montreal would be getting somewhat resonable return on his cap hit. But they’re not, so they (the owners) want to prevent this from happening. Hence the contact term limit. This way, if a player’s production fall off, the teams are not stuck with this player for too long.

    Instead of limiting term, why not link their pay to on-ice production, with some conditions to protect players who’s production falls of because of injury. It would be like an anti-bonus. Players get rewarded with bonuses for when their production exceed expectations, they should also receive less pay when their production is below expectations.

    BOOM. Logic.

    • smiliegirl15

      Wow is that a bad idea. So you have a player who’d salary is directly linked to their point totals, and a coach telling the players in order to win they’ll need to play as a team and work a system which may, or may not get those players their oh so valued points. At the first opportunity that player is going to screw the system in order to pile up their own points, thus negating points from other players. Imagine what that would do in a locker room when some star players are making bank because they’re playing selfish, and others are getting shafted?

      • RKD

        Hi Will. I agree with you, using only points as a gauge of performance would deffinitly cause some problems. I only used points in the Gomez vs. Hansen scenario to point out that some players with similar on-ice performance (of course their rolls are different) can have quite different salaries.

        Maybe the solution would be to have contracts signed for a certain term, but with only the first year’s salary known. Then each year the salary is renegociated based on some limits (e.g. can only rise or fall a max of some % each year). This way all players should be paid close to what their true value is. This would probably be good for league wide competitiveness, as each dollar spent by teams would see similar value provided to the club.

        It would be like each player on the team has salary arbitration every year.

    • RKD

      Why stop there? How about they pin payment on team performance? So that top the top team in the NHL gets 150% of their salary, and the bottom team gets 0%. Pro-rate the rest.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    Games and more games, this is what Unions do in negotiations. Its like trying to herd cats.

    There will be no bargaining in good faith from the union, until the season hangs in the balance. Until Bettman draws the proverbial line in the sand and emphatically states that this is a make or break final offer, nothing will change.

    The union is not interested in bargaining in good faith, never has been and never will.

  • everton fc

    I gave up on my beloved baseball after the steroid scandal. I didn’t miss my beloved NHL last time they pulled the plug. I am not missing it now, and I’m a deep-rooted fan of the game.

    To me, this is a microcosm, if you will, of our culture. Sports has been ruined by money and the associated egos fed by the mighty dollar. I have more fun having a catch with my son in the street, or playing rec soccer with a bunch of men and their boys these days. Pro sports, to me, is becoming a huge waste of valuable time. Like Facebook. Television. Shopping at malls. And so on.

    Time to get out on the many hiking paths in Calgary and see the world. Reality. Which is far more exciting, in reality, than paying attention to all this nonsense.

    As for the players… Let them skate over in Europe for a living. It won’t make a dent on our personal lives, fellows. Indeed, we may even find more family time far more entertaining! The owners… I can see franchises like Columbus, Florida, perhaps Carolina, perhaps Dallas… Others… Folding.

    And I could care less…

    At least Youtube has captured many fond memories of a once-great league, so we can all reminisce and “remember the good old days”… Which are dead, buried, extinct, thanks to a consumer-culture, a materialistic “me” mindset, where every team has to win “now”, or players and coaches get gutted. What happened to the days when fans like those in Washington, rooted the their Senators, almost knowing they’d be “bottom of the table”? Those were fans. And those players, most cared about the fans. Watch an old episode of “Home Run Derby”, circa 1060, to get the full impact of how much our society, our athletes, our culture, has changed…”

    Sorry for any typos. Editing seems unimportant, based on the issue discussed…

    (From a guy who enjoyed watching guys like Nevin Markwart, back in the good old days…)

      • SmellOfVictory

        That is part of the world, is it not? Seeing the world does not inherently have to mean traveling great distances. He also didn’t specify that the two were related (they may have been two separate activities entered in the same sentence). You, my friend, could stand to work on your reading comprehension and your manners.

  • smiliegirl15

    I have zero sympathy for the players now. The Owners made some good concessions for them and they can’t give anything? Ridiculous. If the season is lost now, it’s on the heads of those spoiled brats.

      • RKD

        That is where you and the players are completely wrong. Your hung up in an irrelevant past enforcing a false feeling of entitlement.

        The last CBA has nearly no relevance on the new CBA. That is why they don’t last forever. The environment is different in 2012 then it was in 2004. That includes things like gross revenue and general operating expenses.

  • smiliegirl15

    Why are people upset with the players? Last I checked, during a negotiation you are supposed to present offers and listen to counter-offers until both sides reach a deal.

    The players are negotiating in good faith but Buttman has shown no sign of good faith.

  • smiliegirl15

    Why are there not any Bruins players involved this week?

    Jacobs is the Chariman of the Board and in the middle of everything and there is no Bruin player there to stare him in the eye and question him?

    Pussies.

  • Milli

    I have never been a Bettman fan, but watching lastnight, I believe in his emotion. If Fehr had put it to a vote, I think it would be over. His is the EGO ruining our game today.

  • Milli

    The Toronto Star (I’m sorry) has a fairly decent today article about lockout.

    http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/1299130–nhl-lockout-players-outmatched-in-labour-fight-kelly

    Listening to Montador on the FAN960 today, his statement that the players had the leverage (!!!) was my clue that the players are so out of touch with reality, they’ll never get this thing resolved without losing an entire season. Also, the players’ egos are just as big as the owners. God know why, they’re not nearly as wealthy. Also, apparently the 1994 lockout, never mind the 04 lockout, is still a spur in their side. Yikes.

  • RKD

    This entire process has been a complete farce from top to bottom. This is even worse than last time.

    The owners and players as well as the leadership of Gary, Bill, Steve and Don have completely embarrassed the league.

    They should have a perpetual CBA, meaning if an existing CBA were to expire the next season would start while negotiations would continue during the season. It might be bad for not having the players involved but it avoids a work stoppage.

    Never seen Gary that emotional, not sure what Don’s agenda is. Some of the players are behind him 100%, but if a majority isn’t he shouldn’t be representing them. Funny how two days ago without Gary and Don, the players and owners were making progress. As soon as Don and Gary came back everything fell off the rails.

  • RKD

    I still put this lockout on Bettman’s shoulders. if things are really as bad as he says they are, where has his leadership been the last 8 years since the previous lockout?! If massive contracts and term lengths are the “hill the nhl will die on” he should have made that clear years ago when Philly was handing them out like candy, or at least a few months ago before Minny was offering them out like free condoms at a night club…

    And if the NHL offer was soooo good as they say it was, then why is Bettman so offended by Fehr saying they were close?! If they weren’t close, then obvuously ur offer was trash, no? Am i missing something lol.

    Oh well, here’s to Mr. Steve Dangle and his KHL highlights. go St Petersburg, am i right!!?!!

  • RKD

    When the players hired the ‘devil himself’ Donald Fehr they should have known that this mess was inevitable. This guy almost destroyed major league baseball and is trying to do same with hockey. His negotiations strategy does not involve relationship building / negotiations that should have started more than a year ago at the NHL’s request. I have always been on the owmners side and maintain that they needed a market correction to the current CBA that clearly shows the NHL’s CBA is clearly out of line with the other competing major professional leagues.

    Donald Fehr check your ego and make the next call and get this settled for the benfit of the players and the sport!