Lockout looms for NHL
ASSOCIATED PRESS August 31, 2012 4:36PM
Updated: August 31, 2012 4:42PM
NEW YORK — NHL labor negotiations hit a standstill after talks broke off on Friday, two weeks before the league has threatened to lock out its players.
NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr announced that the NHL asked that talks be “recessed” after the union presented its latest proposal during negotiations held at the league’s headquarters in New York.
Fehr said the union’s latest proposal “did not bear fruit.”
The NHLPA’s latest offer came three days after the NHL made its first counterproposal. After asking the players to cut their share of hockey revenue from 57 to 43 percent, the NHL upped its proposal to have the players get a 46 percent share over a six-year deal.
The two sides took a break from talks on Thursday after the union said it was preparing a counterproposal.
The current CBA expires on Sept. 15, with the NHL already saying it’s prepared to lock out its players if no deal is reached by then. The NHL regular season is scheduled to open Oct. 11, but that date is now in jeopardy.
The two sides were scheduled to continue negotiations in New York next week, but the status of those talks are now uncertain.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he doesn’t see a need to continue negotiations until new ideas can be brought to the table.
“Someone needs to say something new,” Bettman said.
This is not the turn in negotiations the commissioner was hoping for, especially after the NHL altered its proposal this week.
“What I thought was a promising week ended with disappointment,” Bettman said.
The NHLPA is now preparing for the possibility of a lockout, and has scheduled an executive board meeting in New York for Sept. 12-13.
The breakdown in talks further raises the prospect that the NHL is heading toward its fourth labor dispute in 20 years.
It’s a stretch that dates to April 1, 1992, when players held a 10-day strike which forced 30 games to be rescheduled. The most memorable and disruptive breakdown in labor talks came during the last negotiations, which led to the entire 2004-05 season being wiped out.
The NHL was optimistic that its latest proposal would bring the two sides closer together.
“We’re hopeful that it’s a meaningful proposal that we can continue to make progress from,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday. “We feel like we made a good step in that direction earlier this week and we hope that they would make a step forward as well.”
The union has questioned the NHL as to why it is attempting to have players bear much of the burden of cost savings, especially after the league reported record revenues topping $3.1 billion last season.
Aside from asking the players to take an across the board cut in their share of revenues, the NHL is also seeking to place severe limits on free agency while also abolishing players’ rights to salary arbitration.
The NHLPA has taken a different approach in its proposal, though accepting the league’s claim that it financial issues that need resolving. The union has proposed reducing its share of revenues for the first three years of a deal, which would lead to as much as $800 million in savings for the NHL, before having the option to return to the current system in the fourth year.
The union has also proposed that NHL teams adopt a revenue-sharing system to help struggling teams.