Negotiations between NHL, NHLPA fall apart

Jonathan Willis
December 06 2012 06:43PM

Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman held dueling press conferences on Thursday night, and the news was not good. After initially suggesting both sides were close, Don Fehr announced that the NHL had rejected the players’ associations’ latest offer. Gary Bettman followed Fehr up, and announced that the NHL was removing all of the concessions placed on the table in the last meeting.

It was a bizarre evening, and represented an incredibly strange conclusion to a series of talks between owners and players that had initially seemed to create some traction between the two sides.

Donald Fehr's press conference opened on a hopeful note. He detailed an NHLPA proposal that had been made to the league, and which contained the following details:

  • Agreement on the dollars presented in the NHL's last "Make Whole" offer
  • An eight-year CBA term with a mutual out-clause after six years, rather than the ten-year term presented by the league with a mutual out-clause after eight years.
  • Eight-year term limit on contracts
  • No greater year-to-year variance than 25% at any point of the deals

Fehr concluded his statement by emphasizing how close both sides were, and that an agreement could be reached very quickly. 

But no sooner had Fehr left the podium than word came that he was about to return. The NHLPA - in the person of Steve Fehr - had received a voice mail from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, with news that the league had rejected the NHLPA's proposal and that there was no purpose to continuing the meetings; he added that unspecified measures had been taken off the table. Then news came that Bettman and Daly would be holding their own press conference.

Bettman's press conference showed the commissioner at his most emotional, angrily refuting NHLPA statements. Bettman explained that the league's offer last night had not been intended as a negotiable proposal, and that all the NHL wanted was a yes or a no answer. Instead, the NHLPA chose to counter.

Bettman spoke at length, but conveyed a basic message: the NHL had made all the concessions they were going to make, and owners were incredibly angry at their latest proposal being treated the way it was. He added that the league was withdrawing its latest offer. He further railed against the NHLPA's assertion that the two sides were close. He and Daly made comments about "a line in the sand" and "hill to die on."

The NHL followed up Bettman's press conference by releasing statements from ownership.

The bottom line: negotiations have fallen apart, and the NHL is now moving away from its last offer.

It's unclear exactly what happens next, but a move to the courts would seem to be the most likely outcome.

One other thing to emerge from Bettman's press conference: he says he does not have a drop-dead date on the season. But he also said he can't imagine playing less than the 48 games they played in 1994-95.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#51 boourns
December 07 2012, 09:30AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

mority=majority

Avatar
#52 Light, Sweet, Crude
December 07 2012, 09:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

Thanks for this Jonathan. I was trying to piece together what the horrible news was.

Avatar
#53 Collin
December 07 2012, 09:48AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

The contract term limits are being proposed by the owners to protect themselves from their GMs, who are crafty and only recently discovered the back-diving contract scheme for cap circumvention. This seems obvious to me.

The problem though is not the length of the contract, but the relative performance of the player throughout the entire length of the contract. Exhibit A, Scott Gomez. Compare his 2010/2011 stats to Jannik Hansen's (last year Gomez only played 38 games so we'll use the previous year).

Gomez - 80 games, 38 pts, 7.4 million cap hit Hansen - 82 games, 39 pts, 0.8 million cap hit

That is rediculous. Gomez is the poster boy for over valued contracts. This is what the owners/GM really don't want. They don't want overpaid players. If Gomez put up 70+ pts, nobody would be complaining and Montreal would be getting somewhat resonable return on his cap hit. But they're not, so they (the owners) want to prevent this from happening. Hence the contact term limit. This way, if a player's production fall off, the teams are not stuck with this player for too long.

Instead of limiting term, why not link their pay to on-ice production, with some conditions to protect players who's production falls of because of injury. It would be like an anti-bonus. Players get rewarded with bonuses for when their production exceed expectations, they should also receive less pay when their production is below expectations.

BOOM. Logic.

Avatar
#54 Rama Lama
December 07 2012, 09:50AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

Games and more games, this is what Unions do in negotiations. Its like trying to herd cats.

There will be no bargaining in good faith from the union, until the season hangs in the balance. Until Bettman draws the proverbial line in the sand and emphatically states that this is a make or break final offer, nothing will change.

The union is not interested in bargaining in good faith, never has been and never will.

Avatar
#55 everton fc
December 07 2012, 10:10AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

I gave up on my beloved baseball after the steroid scandal. I didn't miss my beloved NHL last time they pulled the plug. I am not missing it now, and I'm a deep-rooted fan of the game.

To me, this is a microcosm, if you will, of our culture. Sports has been ruined by money and the associated egos fed by the mighty dollar. I have more fun having a catch with my son in the street, or playing rec soccer with a bunch of men and their boys these days. Pro sports, to me, is becoming a huge waste of valuable time. Like Facebook. Television. Shopping at malls. And so on.

Time to get out on the many hiking paths in Calgary and see the world. Reality. Which is far more exciting, in reality, than paying attention to all this nonsense.

As for the players... Let them skate over in Europe for a living. It won't make a dent on our personal lives, fellows. Indeed, we may even find more family time far more entertaining! The owners... I can see franchises like Columbus, Florida, perhaps Carolina, perhaps Dallas... Others... Folding.

And I could care less...

At least Youtube has captured many fond memories of a once-great league, so we can all reminisce and "remember the good old days"... Which are dead, buried, extinct, thanks to a consumer-culture, a materialistic "me" mindset, where every team has to win "now", or players and coaches get gutted. What happened to the days when fans like those in Washington, rooted the their Senators, almost knowing they'd be "bottom of the table"? Those were fans. And those players, most cared about the fans. Watch an old episode of "Home Run Derby", circa 1060, to get the full impact of how much our society, our athletes, our culture, has changed..."

Sorry for any typos. Editing seems unimportant, based on the issue discussed...

(From a guy who enjoyed watching guys like Nevin Markwart, back in the good old days...)

Avatar
#56 smiliegirl15
December 07 2012, 10:14AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

I have zero sympathy for the players now. The Owners made some good concessions for them and they can't give anything? Ridiculous. If the season is lost now, it's on the heads of those spoiled brats.

Avatar
#57 dman09
December 07 2012, 10:20AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
everton fc wrote:

I gave up on my beloved baseball after the steroid scandal. I didn't miss my beloved NHL last time they pulled the plug. I am not missing it now, and I'm a deep-rooted fan of the game.

To me, this is a microcosm, if you will, of our culture. Sports has been ruined by money and the associated egos fed by the mighty dollar. I have more fun having a catch with my son in the street, or playing rec soccer with a bunch of men and their boys these days. Pro sports, to me, is becoming a huge waste of valuable time. Like Facebook. Television. Shopping at malls. And so on.

Time to get out on the many hiking paths in Calgary and see the world. Reality. Which is far more exciting, in reality, than paying attention to all this nonsense.

As for the players... Let them skate over in Europe for a living. It won't make a dent on our personal lives, fellows. Indeed, we may even find more family time far more entertaining! The owners... I can see franchises like Columbus, Florida, perhaps Carolina, perhaps Dallas... Others... Folding.

And I could care less...

At least Youtube has captured many fond memories of a once-great league, so we can all reminisce and "remember the good old days"... Which are dead, buried, extinct, thanks to a consumer-culture, a materialistic "me" mindset, where every team has to win "now", or players and coaches get gutted. What happened to the days when fans like those in Washington, rooted the their Senators, almost knowing they'd be "bottom of the table"? Those were fans. And those players, most cared about the fans. Watch an old episode of "Home Run Derby", circa 1060, to get the full impact of how much our society, our athletes, our culture, has changed..."

Sorry for any typos. Editing seems unimportant, based on the issue discussed...

(From a guy who enjoyed watching guys like Nevin Markwart, back in the good old days...)

Ahahahahah your funny, your version of seeing the world is walking the hiking trials of Calgary ahahahaha.

Avatar
#58 Will
December 07 2012, 10:44AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

@Collin

Wow is that a bad idea. So you have a player who'd salary is directly linked to their point totals, and a coach telling the players in order to win they'll need to play as a team and work a system which may, or may not get those players their oh so valued points. At the first opportunity that player is going to screw the system in order to pile up their own points, thus negating points from other players. Imagine what that would do in a locker room when some star players are making bank because they're playing selfish, and others are getting shafted?

Avatar
#59 Cheops
December 07 2012, 10:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

Why are people upset with the players? Last I checked, during a negotiation you are supposed to present offers and listen to counter-offers until both sides reach a deal.

The players are negotiating in good faith but Buttman has shown no sign of good faith.

Avatar
#60 Puritania
December 07 2012, 11:05AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
Rude wrote:

@ Puritania that is

Thanks matey, Patton is a god!

Avatar
#61 suba steve
December 07 2012, 11:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
Jonathan Willis wrote:

In fairness, there were 20 different players in the room at various points in the latest meetings.

Plenty of rank and file.

But, it seems to me, the average salary in the negotiating room far exceedes the average salary in any NHL dressing room (I could be wrong). The rank and file may be present but they are under-represented. A lot of that same rank and file are sadly looking at the end of their NHL careers if this season gets scrapped.

if you want to protect the bottom class, no problem, a new $750,000 to $1,000,000 min NHL salary fixes that problem.

And if the middle class become dirt cheap suddenly, I'm building my whole team with them if I'm a cost sensitive GM.

Avatar
#62 Unknown Comic
December 07 2012, 12:53PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

Why are there not any Bruins players involved this week?

Jacobs is the Chariman of the Board and in the middle of everything and there is no Bruin player there to stare him in the eye and question him?

Pussies.

Avatar
#63 SmellOfVictory
December 07 2012, 12:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
dman09 wrote:

Ahahahahah your funny, your version of seeing the world is walking the hiking trials of Calgary ahahahaha.

That is part of the world, is it not? Seeing the world does not inherently have to mean traveling great distances. He also didn't specify that the two were related (they may have been two separate activities entered in the same sentence). You, my friend, could stand to work on your reading comprehension and your manners.

Avatar
#64 The Beaker
December 07 2012, 01:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
smiliegirl15 wrote:

I have zero sympathy for the players now. The Owners made some good concessions for them and they can't give anything? Ridiculous. If the season is lost now, it's on the heads of those spoiled brats.

Just for the record, if I've been paying you 100k a year and it was time to renegotiate your salary and I say how bout 50k a year? and we negotiate back up to 90k, i didn't give any concessions.

Avatar
#65 Milli
December 07 2012, 01:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

I have never been a Bettman fan, but watching lastnight, I believe in his emotion. If Fehr had put it to a vote, I think it would be over. His is the EGO ruining our game today.

Avatar
#66 kittensandcookies
December 07 2012, 01:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
The Beaker wrote:

Just for the record, if I've been paying you 100k a year and it was time to renegotiate your salary and I say how bout 50k a year? and we negotiate back up to 90k, i didn't give any concessions.

There's a giant difference between making $100K and making $7 million. One's a lot closer to making zero than the other, right?

Avatar
#67 kittensandcookies
December 07 2012, 01:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

The Toronto Star (I'm sorry) has a fairly decent today article about lockout.

http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/1299130--nhl-lockout-players-outmatched-in-labour-fight-kelly

Listening to Montador on the FAN960 today, his statement that the players had the leverage (!!!) was my clue that the players are so out of touch with reality, they'll never get this thing resolved without losing an entire season. Also, the players' egos are just as big as the owners. God know why, they're not nearly as wealthy. Also, apparently the 1994 lockout, never mind the 04 lockout, is still a spur in their side. Yikes.

Avatar
#68 RKD
December 07 2012, 01:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

This entire process has been a complete farce from top to bottom. This is even worse than last time.

The owners and players as well as the leadership of Gary, Bill, Steve and Don have completely embarrassed the league.

They should have a perpetual CBA, meaning if an existing CBA were to expire the next season would start while negotiations would continue during the season. It might be bad for not having the players involved but it avoids a work stoppage.

Never seen Gary that emotional, not sure what Don's agenda is. Some of the players are behind him 100%, but if a majority isn't he shouldn't be representing them. Funny how two days ago without Gary and Don, the players and owners were making progress. As soon as Don and Gary came back everything fell off the rails.

Avatar
#69 kittensandcookies
December 07 2012, 01:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
Collin wrote:

The contract term limits are being proposed by the owners to protect themselves from their GMs, who are crafty and only recently discovered the back-diving contract scheme for cap circumvention. This seems obvious to me.

The problem though is not the length of the contract, but the relative performance of the player throughout the entire length of the contract. Exhibit A, Scott Gomez. Compare his 2010/2011 stats to Jannik Hansen's (last year Gomez only played 38 games so we'll use the previous year).

Gomez - 80 games, 38 pts, 7.4 million cap hit Hansen - 82 games, 39 pts, 0.8 million cap hit

That is rediculous. Gomez is the poster boy for over valued contracts. This is what the owners/GM really don't want. They don't want overpaid players. If Gomez put up 70+ pts, nobody would be complaining and Montreal would be getting somewhat resonable return on his cap hit. But they're not, so they (the owners) want to prevent this from happening. Hence the contact term limit. This way, if a player's production fall off, the teams are not stuck with this player for too long.

Instead of limiting term, why not link their pay to on-ice production, with some conditions to protect players who's production falls of because of injury. It would be like an anti-bonus. Players get rewarded with bonuses for when their production exceed expectations, they should also receive less pay when their production is below expectations.

BOOM. Logic.

Why stop there? How about they pin payment on team performance? So that top the top team in the NHL gets 150% of their salary, and the bottom team gets 0%. Pro-rate the rest.

Avatar
#70 Collin
December 07 2012, 01:52PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
Will wrote:

Wow is that a bad idea. So you have a player who'd salary is directly linked to their point totals, and a coach telling the players in order to win they'll need to play as a team and work a system which may, or may not get those players their oh so valued points. At the first opportunity that player is going to screw the system in order to pile up their own points, thus negating points from other players. Imagine what that would do in a locker room when some star players are making bank because they're playing selfish, and others are getting shafted?

Hi Will. I agree with you, using only points as a gauge of performance would deffinitly cause some problems. I only used points in the Gomez vs. Hansen scenario to point out that some players with similar on-ice performance (of course their rolls are different) can have quite different salaries.

Maybe the solution would be to have contracts signed for a certain term, but with only the first year's salary known. Then each year the salary is renegociated based on some limits (e.g. can only rise or fall a max of some % each year). This way all players should be paid close to what their true value is. This would probably be good for league wide competitiveness, as each dollar spent by teams would see similar value provided to the club.

It would be like each player on the team has salary arbitration every year.

Avatar
#71 Sincity1976
December 07 2012, 02:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

@The Beaker

That is where you and the players are completely wrong. Your hung up in an irrelevant past enforcing a false feeling of entitlement.

The last CBA has nearly no relevance on the new CBA. That is why they don't last forever. The environment is different in 2012 then it was in 2004. That includes things like gross revenue and general operating expenses.

Avatar
#72 nuckman
December 07 2012, 02:42PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

I still put this lockout on Bettman's shoulders. if things are really as bad as he says they are, where has his leadership been the last 8 years since the previous lockout?! If massive contracts and term lengths are the "hill the nhl will die on" he should have made that clear years ago when Philly was handing them out like candy, or at least a few months ago before Minny was offering them out like free condoms at a night club...

And if the NHL offer was soooo good as they say it was, then why is Bettman so offended by Fehr saying they were close?! If they weren't close, then obvuously ur offer was trash, no? Am i missing something lol.

Oh well, here's to Mr. Steve Dangle and his KHL highlights. go St Petersburg, am i right!!?!!

Avatar
#73 Primo
December 07 2012, 03:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

When the players hired the 'devil himself' Donald Fehr they should have known that this mess was inevitable. This guy almost destroyed major league baseball and is trying to do same with hockey. His negotiations strategy does not involve relationship building / negotiations that should have started more than a year ago at the NHL's request. I have always been on the owmners side and maintain that they needed a market correction to the current CBA that clearly shows the NHL's CBA is clearly out of line with the other competing major professional leagues.

Donald Fehr check your ego and make the next call and get this settled for the benfit of the players and the sport!

Avatar
#74 TigerUnderGlass
December 07 2012, 09:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
Jonathan Willis wrote:

Here's a crazy idea: maybe the guys present are present because for the most part they're seen as educated and intelligent.

Westgarth is a fourth-line tough guy, but he also has a degree from Princeton. Darche went to McGill. Parros went to Princeton and wrote about labour relations while he was there. Shawn Horcoff has a degree in finance.

The NHLPA negotiating committee is chosen by the NHL executive board - Don Fehr and the 30 player representatives. For the most part, the guys included are really easy to understand.

I don't know why there isn't a European on the list - I think that's a mistake by the PA - but if I were a player I'd be thrilled that its guys like Westgarth, Darche, Parros and Horcoff in the room on my side.

I think you are largely overestimating the value of a degree.

Avatar
#75 suba steve
December 08 2012, 12:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

@TigerUnderGlass

I don't disagree with your take on the value of a player's degree in these negotiations. However, the fact that they have achieved a degree does tell me that the players attending are not a bunch of Shane Churla clones.

As for the value of Crosby and some others, well they look good nodding off behind D. Fehr in his pressers.

Avatar
#76 TigerUnderGlass
December 09 2012, 10:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

@suba steve

The only thing necessary to get a degree is tuition and to want to have a degree. They are not hard to obtain and prepare you for NOTHING that happens in the world. The idea that holding a degree helps, in any way, prepare someone for negotiating a contract like this is laughable.

Comments are closed for this article.