NHL Lockout Morning Coffee Headlines (Boom Goes The Dynamite Edition) – December 7, 2012.

After several days of promising negotiations, NHL CBA talks break down once again. Read on for the latest reports & analysis.


NHL CBA talks break down once again.

TSN.CA: NHL CBA negotiations broke down once again as the NHL rejected the NHLPA’s attempt to negotiate off the league’s latest proposal, which NHL negotiators claimed the PA had to accept in its entirety. Though PA director Donald Fehr claimed in his press conference the two sides were close (particularly on the money issues), a visibly upset NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denied this during his own press conference, accusing the PA of continually changing the issues it would find agreeable for a deal. Central to the league’s proposal was a CBA ten years in length (with an opt-out option at year eight), five year term limits on player contracts (which deputy commissioner Bill Daly calls “the hill we’re going to die 0n”), and no variance options. The four “moderate” owners who participated in this week’s negotiations (Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum, Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman, Pittsburgh’s Ron Burkle and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Vinik) subsequently issued statements following Bettman’s press conference, sharing the commissioner’s disappointment and frustration over the collapse of this week’s talks.

YAHOO! SPORTS: Nicholas J. Cotsonika believes that, despite the tragicomic theater of this week’s CBA negotiations, the drama appears to be approaching a climax. He points out Fehr’s effectiveness at “frustrating the owners with his moving targets – from revenue sharing to honoring contracts to pensions – and ignoring the owners’ deadlines and ultimatums”, pointing out Bettman has made his best multiple offers, only to return with better ones each time. Cotsonika suggests that’s led Fehr to believe the owners’ last best offer has yet to come.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been effective, but there’s also the danger Fehr could overplay his hand. Already there’s talk now the owners despise him, which could push supposed moderates who seek a season-saving deal more firmly behind Bettman and the hawkish owners. Still, one can’t fault Fehr for his tactics, which have so far, as Cotsonika pointed out, resulted in the league coming back with better offers. Given how close both sides now are to a deal, I believe the league has one more offer to make.

CBC.CA: Elliotte Freidman examines the options remaining for the players in the wake of the latest collapse in CBA talks, plus noted Bettman ducked questions about a “drop dead date” to get a season-saving deal done. “He did admit however, that the 48-game season of 1995 (puck drop: Jan. 20) is the baseline of what he considers an acceptable schedule”, wrote Friedman, suggesting we’ve got a little over another month of negotiations to go. Friedman also maintains a lack of trust between the two sides remains an issue.

Tim Wharnsby focused upon Bettman apparently setting a 48-game schedule as his benchmark for a season. He also posted a list of the NHL Board of Governors.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Obviously, Bettman and the owners would prefer an earlier return in order to get in more games than that this season, but at least now we’ve got a reasonably clear picture of just how far the league is willing to go before they finally announce a deadline to end the season.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan published a copy of the e-mail Donald Fehr sent last night to the NHLPA membership listing the key points from the negotiations, including Fehr’s belief there is an agreement on dollars, plus the PA’s proposal for eight-year term limits on player contracts, an eight year CBA (with a six-year opt out), and ” variability limit of 25% over the term of the SPC, applied to contracts of 7 years or longer.”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks cited “a source on the players side” claiming the league is merely attempting to create dissent among the ranks of the NHLPA, trying to scare the players into making a deal”. Brooks also reports the NHLPA “will consider disclaiming, which is the first step to decertification and likely sooner rather than later. Bettman said the Board had been briefed on the possibility during its meeting on Wednesday and did not regard such a hypothetical step as particularly dramatic.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ah, the return of the “D” word. Didn’t take long for that to reappear following the latest breakdown in negotiations. Yes, it’s an option which may have moved further up in the players’ deck of options, and the PA could indeed start the proceedings within the next couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean negotiations will come to a screeching halt if they do. The league may consider it a bluff, but it could still provide incentive for another round of talks.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks player Daniel Winnik, who took part in this week’s negotiations, was “baffled” by the league’s reaction to the PA’s proposal. “This is clearly their boldest move they’ve made,” Winnik said. “And to think that if everything’s off the table and everything that was done since June or the first time we met is all gone, it is insane to me.”…”That’s just insane to think that any progress we made is gone because we refused to accept those contracting rights.”

DENVER POST: Adrian Dater suggests it seems more than a coincidence pensions became a significant issue for the PA only a couple of days after reports emerged of retired senior players currently struggling because their pension benefits were cut off by the lack of a new CBA. He also wondered why, if the two sides were as close as Fehr claimed, did the NHLPA earlier in the day request federal mediators return to the talks. Dater also doubts Bettman is bluffing over yanking the  league’s latest “make whole” provision ($300 million) off the table, can’t believe the players are willing to risk the lose of a season over contract term limits, and took Fehr to task for his “passive-aggressive, soulless look” during his press conference last night.

Dater also cited “a depth player” who claimed “we were ready to play again” but Fehr came in on Wednesday “and told us we could get more and to hold out.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fehr’s demeanor aside, Dater does raise interesting points over how pensions suddenly became a hot topic for the players, and the PA’s request for the return of federal mediators. I also share his concern regarding the players apparent willingness at this point to put negotiations for a season-saving deal in jeopardy over term limits. As for the seriousness of Bettman’s claim of the make whole proposal coming off the table, perhaps he is, but given how often he’s backtracked with each successive offer since July, it’s difficult to take that claim at face value. You can only cry “wolf!” so often before folks stop believing you.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun expressed his frustration over the latest turn in negotiations, accusing both sides of “pure madness”. “Are we really going to drop the ax on an entire season because the owners are THAT adamant about five-year term limits for player contracts? And are the players THAT opposed to five-year contract term limits that they will let an entire season’s worth of salary go down the drain?” Still, LeBrun doesn’t see the two sides being that far apart now, suggesting cooler heads should prevail, and calling on both sides to stop the politics and get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with LeBrun’s take. For all the posturing and rhetoric, the two sides are much closer to a deal now than at any point since negotiations opened back in July. Bettman said their side would take some time to “draw a deep breath” and examine where they go from here, which the PA is also likely to do. A deal is there to be done, it’s now a question of how long it takes until they resume talks.

NATIONAL POST: Bruce Arthur isn’t buying into the rhetoric coming from the league’s side, as he believes they’ve beaten the players. “The owners have crushed them. They have gotten players to agree to a 50-50 split of revenues from 57-43, plus US$300-million in payments to honour parts of existing contracts which would be rolled back, though US$50-million of that is players paying their own pensions. They have pushed the length of the collective bargaining agreement, no matter what, and have put limits on contract lengths. They have held steady on arbitration, and age of unrestricted free agency. It is a rout. All that’s left is finding out how much of a rout it is.” Arthur believes “the league is going to win, but not without cost”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Arthur summed things up perfectly with that paragraph. The league got what it wanted, and Fehr is merely trying to minimize the damage to his clients and get the best, least painful deal he can. Besides, I think the real concern, from Bettman’s side, is getting a deal which limits the possibility of its exploitation by the owners once the lockout ends.  We all know owner solidarity flies out the window when the puck is dropped, as they immediately seek loopholes to exploit to their own benefit at the expense of the others. It’s how they roll. They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again. Survival of the fittest and all that. 

SPORTSNET.CA: Michael Grange wasn’t impressed with Bettman’s emotional response, accusing the commissioner of playing the role of “bad boyfriend”, and believes the two sides are much closer to a deal. “It’s time for the NHL owners and Bettman to get over the petty things the NHLPA does that makes them mad and recognize that like it or not, they’re stuck with each other.”

THE SPORTING NEWS: Jesse Spector on how the NHL was rejecting the NHLPA’s counter offer even while Donald Fehr was attempting to put a positive spin on things during his press conference.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Eric Duhatschek draws comparison to December 2004 and the last NHL lockout, while Ken Dryden suggests pride (especially among the players) is fueling the labor dispute.


  1. I cant stand the comment by anyone that says the players make too much money …first off this is horse&^$#.
    Only the elite players make top dollars …by the way …they make what the owners pay them for the caliber hockey player they are …its like a prize fighter…everyone wants him and they will do what ever they can to get hime before anyone else does …that means pay him big money …why because the owner wants his pet to fill seats in his rink and make him money …..pretty simple !!!

    Paying a top elite hockey player what hes worth in a somewhat open market should be the way it should beonly 700 plus hockey players are in the NHL out of the hundreds of millions of people who aspire to make it there…that means you have to pay them for there life long work to be the best in the sport and play for your team ….thats why there is a draft …Clubs and owners try and get the best players possible and turn them into superstars to make them money and play on there team ……i.e The Gretzky Trade ….this out of anything should be the sole ICON that leads everyone to the fact that the owners use every player like a pawn and when its there time to either capitalize on that commodity or get rid of them becuase of old age they are worthless to them….hey Gretzky …hey Sundin I think its time to move on youyr relly not worth that much to me anymore you gotta go!!!!!
    This is reality ….I cant believe that the owners are trying to essentially reneg on the deals that they have allready signed to the players …..WHAT OWNER would ever go to a negotiation with another business person after signing a deal and say I made a mistake I want some of my money back ….and I want to control you after I get it back so you cant ask for anymore from another owner again!…..this is absolutey insane ……..When an owner buys a NHL hockey club…he has to expect to pay MHL caliber Hockey players NHL or BIG LEAGUE salaries ….thats what its all about for everyone …not just an owner ….everyon who aspires to play hockey weathet you want to admit or not …..along with the fame and glory comes the money …plain and simple ….CEO s for majopr corpoartions for being the best in there field makes 10 to 20 million a year !!!!!! Hockey players who risk there lives on a daily basis acting like a galdiator fpor the ownwers and goung out to kill each other because the coach told him toi get that guy in the corner for high sticking there Captain is risking his life everyday….and they the players should be paid to do so !!!!!!
    The average middle class Hockey player makes around $1.5 million a year and has a life span of on average 3 years in the NHL …….this is lowest average slary of any MAJOR LEAGUE professional sports league …..but the owners cash in year after year long after that player is rendered useless or not fit to be on his precious Hockey team anymore ……an owner busy a Hockey team to feel like Casear in a dome and uses his clubs losses to evade taxes so he doesnt have to pay the Govermnet any more money from all of his other holdings of business …give me a break Owners you are all shisters and you know it ….no one ever becomes that wealthy from being an Honest person …SORRY!!!!

    The players should have an open ,market to make what any one club would pay them …its that simple its like that in real life …we all go to where we make the most money and who will give it to us for our special services ….and we still want more …..an NHL player should be treated the same way for sure.

    IMO the Owners are retreating to the ways of the Communist regime in Russia back in the day when Russian hockey players were trying to get out of the USSR to play in the BIG LEAGUES and make serious money and be famous ….now Russi is paying top dollar and putting together leagues that are handled better than the NHL is ….and they realize one thing ….Russia needs to pay the best players the most money to play in Europe …thats whey the league is growing at the pace it is ….theers quality Hockey in Europe and it appears that some NHL players cant handle it .

    The NHL and its Owners should look at this situation and be very concerned ….if I was Europe Id be looking at taking advantage of the stupid NHL owners and purdge from the NHL and try and keep the best players in Europe ….and sink the NHL owners back down to where they belong begging and wishing they had enough money to won that best players rights …..and paying them stupid money to have there picture hanging on there wall and saying to himslef I won that guy and hes one of the best Hockey players in the world …..how did he get him ….ummmmmmm he paid him more than any one els in the world WHY ? becuas ehe can !!!

  2. You have to be able to tell the difference between cry wolf and lets go one more step and get it done.
    I think the 4 new owners in the talks may have been told by other owners do not add but subtract stuff because if you add they will think it is weakness instead of good negotiating and just keep asking for more.
    The 4 would have said no we think it will show good faith and they will see that and compromise and it will get done.
    Then NHLPA then go the no real compromise route and even add in a couple of new things proving the hawk owners right and now the mediate owners are mad and have become hawks.
    This is not crying wolf,this is adding more to the side of you were right being reasonable does not work.
    Seeing the pittsburgh owner,who all considered the guy they wanted there,upset and leaving and the toronto owner pissed and willing to walk away from the biggest profits in the game says a lot more about things then anything gary said.
    Fehr has way overplayed his hand with the get more,get more attitude after the 4 got involved.
    If it was just bettman/fehr again it may be more smoke then fire but i think after the 4 it is more fire then smoke.
    There should be one more long sit down coming but i think will be very clear that it gets done or it becomes all out war in the courts.
    The players better be sure if they decertify because if they lose the court battle the new NHL will make them really regret it.

  3. The NHL plays the NHLPA like a fiddle…

    First they proxy all their comments through two people while players spew childish/unnecessary comments/threats.

    Secondly they bide their time. Players are getting restless turning on eachother. Fringe players and veterans close to retirement outnumber stars big. This breaking off when all seem so close is brilliant – players will settle for even less next time around.

    Had NHLPA been smart they would have players praise the game and desire to play and let Fehr comment on negotiations/be Bettmans counterpart/proxy for blame/erie from fans. Also, they should have played hard ball like NHL – “these are our numbers, get close or we drop cap and start from 2004.”. That should have gotten Bettman listening as the cap saved their face placing franchises in failing markets.

    …just my thoughts.

  4. Those 4 owners, Vinek, Tanenbaum, Burkle & Chipman went in with good faith to try to get a deal. They had a great day on Tuesday (Steve Fehr’s comment) but the players come back into Wednesday’s meetings with a different attitude.. WHY? My guess and the guess of others is that Donald Fehr had something to do with that.

    The league made a pretty fair proposal on Wednesday.. that is fair to about 600 or so NHLPA but not to the 90 stars in the NHL that would be negatively impacted by the 5 yr (7 yr) contract limit.

    So the players think the NHL is trying to cause dissent within the Union. What in the hell do you think Fehr is trying to do to the Owners. He is playing games… causing so much frustration that he thinks the Owners will cave on everything.

    Fehr is a ‘master manipulator’ that the younger players are being fooled into… Bettman is not much better.. but anyone can see he was visibly upset last night at what happened.

    The offer on Wednesday by the NHL was for the extra $100M on a TEN YEAR CBA. It wasn’t there for the Union to pick and choose what they want and twist it into their own offer.

    Vinik, Tanenbaum, Burkle & Chipman believe that Fehr does not want to settle the CBA after what they went through on Wednesday.. and IMO they are correct.

    Things were going very well on Tuesday… made some progress on Wednesday.. then Fehr says he wants back into the meetings.. WHY? To put a stop to any settlement… Bettman stayed away from the meetings… but not Donald…

    He is driving the bus that is headed off a cliff and the players are stupidly following.

    As a fan I’m starting to lose respect for these players…

    I hope Gary Bettman.. come Dec 31st if there is no progress… just cancel the season.. and make no further concessions… Call Fehr’s bluff in that he believes the offers will be better.