With CBA talks dragging, Commissioner Gary Bettman is under fire from angry fans who see a lockout coming. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
By Stu Hackel
The Thursday meeting between NHL owners and players was a short one, only 90 minutes, but it seems that’s all that was needed. An impending stalemate in CBA negotiations (discussed here in Wednesday’s post) looms with each side’s position in danger of ossifying. It’s hardly unanticipated; you had to know that amidst all the talk about being focused on reaching an agreement, there’s long been a sense that each side would dig in its heels over some fundamental issue and those heels now seem to be sinking into the earth.
This isn’t to say that the sides aren’t trying to negotiate a deal at the moment. They’re still talking and plan to resume on Tuesday. According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in his remarks after the most recent discussion, the league had tried to craft a revised position of its own — incorporating elements of the NHLPA’s “alternate proposal” that offers the owners’ some concessions on player salaries — that would be the basis for whittling down the difference between the sides. But Bettman said the NHLPA didn’t have much “receptivity” to what the league devised, despite a couple of attempts to engage the union on it. Then the players presented the owners with the remaining parts of their proposal, those dealing with the NHLPA’s views on contract issues: free agency, salary arbitration, contract length and the like, things the NHL wants to restrict. The owners didn’t much like what they heard. “The union,” Bettman said (video), “is looking for a system that has more flexibility and we’re looking for a system that has less flexibility.
“The bigger point, I think, we made today goes to the fact that whether or not we are talking about the contract or system issues or we’re talking about revenue sharing, it’s clear that we’re at a point where it’s going to be very difficult to move this process along until we deal with the fundamental economic issues. And certainly as it relates to the fundamental economic issue, we are far apart, both in terms of magnitude and structure. And that’s something we’re trying to get a handle on.”