NEW YORK, N.Y. – The NHL wants to see everything put in writing.
With negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement seemingly at a stalemate, the league met with the NHL Players’ Association on Monday night and requested that the union put all of its desires together into one complete offer.
“It’s our position that we’ve made a couple comprehensive proposals in a row,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “We’d like to know where they are on all of the issues. We asked them to think about putting together a comprehensive proposal for us to consider. …
“We’ve never heard a full proposal from them.”
The union’s response should dictate if the sides will formally start negotiating their way through the key issues.
Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, was guarded with his comments coming out of the Monday evening session he initiated. He indicated the league’s request would be taken into consideration and said “it’s more likely than not” the sides will meet again Tuesday.
It was unclear whether he would table a new proposal that covers the split of revenue, player contract rights and how the damage caused by the lockout will be paid for.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Daly. “We asked, I certainly hope it’s something they’ll consider. I think that’s something they’re deliberating on.”
With frustration building and the lockout dragging into its ninth week, the sides have struggled to find a way forward in negotiations. Fehr and commissioner Gary Bettman discussed the possibility of taking a break from talks last week, but Fehr thought it would be best if the sides continued to meet.
However, after requesting Monday’s meeting the union didn’t arrive with a new offer. Instead, Fehr was hoping to engage the league in a discussion on core economics and player contract issues.
“We could have taken a couple weeks off, I suppose,” he said. “It’s hard for me to see how you make an agreement if you aren’t talking and so you talk. Sometimes it doesn’t lead anywhere, perhaps very often it doesn’t lead anywhere, but if you aren’t talking it’s 100 per cent sure it doesn’t lead anywhere.”
Neither side has demonstrated a willingness to start trading concessions at the bargaining table.
While the union maintains the gap on economic issues isn’t very wide, the league isn’t quite so sure. The NHL is asking for a straight 50-50 split of revenues while the NHLPA has proposed seeing the players’ share jump in fixed increments of 1.75 per cent each season starting from the $1.883-billion they took in last year.
That offer didn’t include the mechanism that would be used to account for the reduced revenue generated during a shortened 2012-13 season.
“They are trying to suggest to us that we’re a lot closer than we think we are,” said Daly. “So, if they’re at $1.9-whatever billion, I think we calculated it as 65 per cent of (hockey related revenue) this year. Obviously, that would be a long way from 50 per cent.
“We want to see if they can wrap something up and give it to us.”
The league is also looking for changes to rules governing entry-level deals, contract lengths and arbitration. On Monday night, Fehr presented details of a proposal designed to penalize teams who sign players to front-loaded, long-term contracts in the event they retire early—an area the NHL could have interest in.
With talks resuming for the first time since Nov. 11 and the league expected to cancel more regular-season games this week, there was no shortage of interest in the process.
Eighteen players attended the session, including highly-paid veterans Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Shawn Horcoff. Each of those players has already lost one season of his career to the 2004-05 lockout.
“Players are very interested and we tell anybody that wants to come they can come and I’m glad to have all of them,” said Fehr. “I think it’s a reflection of how interested and involved the players are.”
Members of the union have taken public shots at the NHL’s leadership in recent days. On Monday afternoon, Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg invoked strong language while suggesting Bettman and Daly should be fired during an interview on TSN Radio 1050.
“You’ve got to look for the cancers and you’ve got to cut out the cancers,” said Versteeg. “I think when you look at Bill Daly and Gary Bettman they’ve been looting this game for far too long.”
That came just days after Detroit Red Wings defenceman Ian White told reporters that he thinks Bettman is an “idiot.”
However, Daly doesn’t think those comments are hurting the negotiations.
“I don’t think either Gary or I take those personally,” he said. “(We) understand there’s a lot of frustration in this process. I’m frustrated in terms of being where we are and not playing hockey.
“I think that’s just human nature.”