A "Fugly" Day: Optimism Fades in NHL CBA Discussions

Bruce Bennett

After a night to sleep on it, is hope still alive for a near-term start to the 2012-13 NHL season?

Collective bargaining agreement talks between the NHL and NHL Players Association took a step backwards yesterday with a meeting that was, in a word, "fugly", as TSN's wise sage Bob McKenzie portended Thursday morning on twitter.

@TSNBobMcKenzie: If NHLPA counter today works off NHL proposal, there'll be traction/negotiation. If NHLPA counter is different conceptually, it'll be Fugly.

@TSNBobMcKenzie: I fear Fugly could be trending later today. Hope I'm wrong. We'll see soon enough.

Thursday's meeting offered the NHLPA an opportunity to respond to the NHL owners' proposal that was presented on Tuesday, a move that many felt was a foundation that could drive real negotiation toward a new CBA and perhaps offer an option to salvage an 82-game NHL season.

The much-anticipated meeting was delayed over an hour as the NHLPA wrapped up last-minute player calls and executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr assembled a troop of high-profile players, including Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal along with Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, and fourteen others. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly attended the meeting along with Jeremy Jacobs (Boston), Ted Leonsis (Washington), Murray Edwards (Calgary), and Craig Leipold (Minnesota) representing the NHL owners.

Shortly after an hour into the meeting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman emerged, visibly displeased that the NHLPA's response was not found to be acceptable.

"It's clear we're not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with," said Bettman, adding, "I am to say the least thoroughly disappointed."

Fehr's reply, "Today is not a good day. It should have been, but it wasn't."

Players Shane Doan, Sidney Crosby, and Jonathan Toews also provided a reaction. Crosby felt that the players' proposals were shut down in the first ten minutes, stating, "That doesn't seem like a group that's willing to negotiate."

Fehr presented three proposals on behalf of the Players Association. None of the proposals have been made public, but several sites (referenced below) outlined details as they are known at this time. All proposals are based on a five-year term. The first proposal is based on player shares which would be fixed for the first three years, then baselined, then adjusted to the lower of 50 percent of hockey related revenue (HRR) or the baseline. The second proposal would start at last year's share ($1.883b) and would base future years' payments off a reduced percentage of revenue growth until the players share equalled 50 percent of HRR.

The third proposal, which garnered the most reaction, called for an immediate 50/50 split of hockey related revenue, with a caveat that the owners must honor all contracts as signed with no escrow. This would be done to protect players who had signed long-term deals, with the assumption that most of the older deals would be phased out over five years. While on first read the third proposal seemed to be in line with the owner's proposal to make all contracts whole, further inspection reveals this proposal does not work unless some payments are withheld, which would cause deals to players in later years to suffer. Fehr himself admitted that the PA had not "run the numbers" on the third proposal because it was a late idea added by the players.

The optimist would say there is common ground for negotiation here. Both parties are now hovering around and at least discussing the notion of an eventual 50/50 revenue split, which in and of itself is a significant milestone, with the questions being how to get there and when. Perhaps once some of the emotion and gamesmanship is filtered out, there will be an avenue to proceed.

The two parties are not scheduled to meet again until next week. In the meantime, fans should expect to hear an announcement of more regular season games to be cancelled, perhaps as early as today.

Media links from the meeting

Gary Bettman

Donald Fehr

Shane Doan

Sidney Crosby

Jonathan Toews

Reaction

Jesse Spector (Sporting News) NHL lockout: Forget the math - owners' quick rejection is a bad joke

Pierre LeBrun (ESPN.com) CBA talks not as dire as it appears

Kevin Allen (USA Today) Bettman rejects NHLPA's offers, returns to New York

Nick Cotsonika (Yahoo! Sports) NHL and NHLPA wasting time with scare tactics and PR stunts instead of settling CBA

Stu Hackel (SI.com) Hope dashed as CBA talks stall again

Elliotte Friedman (CBC Sports) NHL labour solution could come from auto industry

Tim Whamsby (CBC Sports) Crosby and fellow players miffed at NHL's quick rejection (article goes into very specific details around the three NHLPA proposals)

Bruce Arthur (National Post) NHL lockout: League, players still cannot bridge the gap

James Mirtle (The Globe and Mail) Why the NHL players' 50-50 compromise may not matter (good job outlining the terms and dollars around proposals 1 and 2)


Be sure to follow SB Nation's story stream of the NHL Lockout 2012, with breaking news and further analysis.
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