TORONTO – There will be fresh faces and a new approach when the NHL’s collective bargaining talks resume.
A select group of owners and players are scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon in New York after the NHL Players’ Association accepted an invitation from commissioner Gary Bettman to change up the dynamic at the bargaining table.
“The (meeting) should facilitate dialogue between players and owners,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Sunday. “Neither the commissioner nor I will be present, although each side will have a limited number of staff or counsel present. There will be owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome.
“We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement.”
Four of the six owners scheduled to attend the meeting will be taking part in their first CBA session: Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning). Calgary Flames owner Murray Edwards and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs—both part of the NHL’s negotiating team—will also be in attendance.
On Sunday night, the NHLPA indicated that it was still finalizing the list of six players who it would send to the session.
The idea for the meeting was suggested last week by Bettman after the sides spent two days with U.S. federal mediators and failed to make any progress in talks. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday that the league felt it might be a good time to change up the dynamic.
It took three days for the terms of the meeting to be ironed out.
The NHLPA requested that the session be attended by representatives from the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, according to a source, but ended up settling for having the group of players joined by a handful of union staff and lawyers.
There will be plenty of experienced businessmen on the league’s side of the table. Burkle in particular is known as a dealmaker who built his fortune with a chain of grocery stores in California, where he won favour with a local union during a tough round of negotiations in the 1980s.
It’s an interesting time for the introduction of new faces to the NHL talks. All regular season games through Dec. 14 have been cancelled—422 in total, plus the Winter Classic and all-star game—and the league’s Board of Governors is set to convene in New York on Wednesday.
“I think it’s a good thing that there will be some new voices and perspectives,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “At this point I don’t think it can hurt.”
With the lockout into its 12th week, the NHL and NHLPA remain at a stalemate.
Even though both sides have proposed a 50-50 split of revenues, they remain separated on payments to be made outside the system to help ease the transition from the previous deal, which saw players receive 57 per cent. The NHL has offered $211 million in deferred compensation while the union has asked for $393 million.
There are also a number of rules governing player contracts that must be worked out before a new CBA is signed.