NHL, players not on same page
TORONTO — The first tense moments of the NHL’s collective bargaining negotiations have arrived.
With Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr not scheduled to sit across from one another until the middle of next week and the sides unable to even agree on the core issues that need to be addressed, a sense of uneasiness has suddenly enveloped the talks.
After Wednesday’s session, in which the NHL dismissed the union’s initial proposal, Fehr set off for pre-scheduled player meetings in Chicago. The union boss will also oversee a session with players in Kelowna, B.C., before returning to Toronto and resuming CBA discussions on Aug. 22.
At that point, the league and the NHL Players’ Association will have just 24 days left to reach a new agreement and avoid a lockout.
But where do they start? There is very little common ground between the proposals each side has put forth and neither seems particularly willing to move off its current position.
“What the issues are and how they get solved and how deep the issues go are something that we’re not yet on the same page,” Bettman said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the hockey world remains on hold — and many are starting to brace for the worst. The Detroit Red Wings announced Thursday that they’re cancelling their annual September prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., due to the “uncertainty” surrounding the CBA.
Eight teams had been scheduled to participate.
“We have determined that it is in everyone’s best interest to cancel this year’s tournament,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said in a statement.
Sub-committees from the league and union gathered Thursday to discuss non-core economic issues such as travel, ice conditions and training camp. Both sides seemed encouraged about the status of those talks, but as deputy commissioner Bill Daly pointed out: “I don’t think that’s where this CBA is going to get cut or not.”
In simple terms, the owners want to pay players less — much less. Despite the fact the NHL’s revenues grew from $2.2 billion before the 2004-05 lockout to $3.3 billion last season, a number of teams are still struggling.
The financial success of the wealthiest franchises over the last seven years ended up hurting the poorer ones.
That’s because the salary cap was tied to overall hockey-related revenues and rose dramatically from $39 million in 2005-06 to $64.3 million last season, bringing the salary floor (the minimum teams must spend) up along with it. If next season was played under the current system, the cap would have been set at $70.2 million and the floor would have been $54.2 million.
However, a new deal needs to be put in place before the NHL resumes operations.