NHL lockout: Owners, union still far apart after long day of negotiations
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org September 12, 2012 9:50PM
Donald Fehr, Ron Hainsey
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:44AM
NEW YORK — It didn’t take long for Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews to be approached by Swedish media and asked about Swedish hockey leagues as he made his way to NHL Players’ Association meetings Wednesday at a Manhattan hotel.
“If it does get to the point where it’s time to look for a job elsewhere, we’ll see what type of options are out there,” Toews said. “But right now, those sorts of things are pretty unclear.”
But if the impasse between the NHLPA and NHL owners continues, European options will come into play for top-tier players such as Toews.
After a long day of negotiations and meetings, what became more clear is that the NHLPA and the owners are still far from a collective-bargaining agreement — despite some minor progress — and that there are still plenty of issues to address other than how revenue is dispersed.
In other words, unless substantial progress is made in the next three days, the players will be locked out by the league at midnight Sunday when the current CBA expires. After a round of negotiations, commissioner Gary Bettman left the players with a take-it-or-leave-it proposal.
“We’ve always been optimistic,” said Toews, who was joined by teammates Steve Montador, Brent Seabrook, Ray Emery and Michael Frolik. “You always kind of look at the brighter side of things. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, it will be a big weekend. We’ll see if anything moves or anything happens in the next couple of days.”
At the heart of negotiations is still how hockey-related revenue is divided between players and owners. Owners are seeking an immediate absolute reduction of the players’ cut, while the NHLPA only is willing to reduce its share over time as business grows.
The league put forward a six-year proposal that will drop the players’ share from the current 57 percent to 49 next season and eventually to 47. If unaccepted by the NHLPA by Saturday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline, Bettman said he would pull it.
“The owners’ position in bargaining is that [a lockout] worked so well last time that we’ll do it all over again,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said.
Fehr called the drop from 57 percent to 49 a very significant amount.
“While it is accurate the owners’ proposal does not take quite as much money from the players [as opposed to earlier proposals], somebody might say they take an extraordinarily large amount or an extremely big amount,” Fehr said.
If there was any progress made, it was that the owners are willing to stick with what currently defines hockey-related revenue, which the union wanted.
The NHLPA has continued to use its original proposal from August as the basis for the negotiations, but it offered a three-year deal that can potentially turn into a five-year agreement. The owners had sought a five-year agreement but are now looking for a sixth year.