The mudslinging via the media between the NHL and NHLPA returned following Friday’s CBA talks, fueling concerns negotiations could break down.


Tension & frustration boil over following fourth day of NHL CBA talks.

TSN.CA/CANADIAN PRESS: The NHL and NHLPA exchanged heated words following another lengthy session of CBA negotiations Friday as the two sides remain $380 million apart. The fundamental issue remains reducing the players share of revenue toward a 50-50 split with owners while honoring existing contracts. The NHL’s latest offer would see the players receive $211 million in guaranteed deferred “make whole” payments, based upon revenue growth, but the PA continues to have concerns revenue growth would be sufficient to cover the losses to the players contracts. No bargaining sessions were scheduled for Saturday, but league commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA director Donald Fehr both expressed the desire to continue talks over the weekend.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports more detail on the main sticking point: the “make whole” option:

“Sources on both sides confirmed to that the league’s Make Whole offer — an attempt to honor players’ existing contracts — amounts to $211 million of guaranteed money ($149 million in Year 1 and $62 million in Year 2, both deferred in payment by one year and payable with interest). The league’s belief is that by Year 3 of the deal, revenues will have likely grown enough that at 50 percent of HRR the players shouldn’t face much if any salary erosion in escrow. At which one NHLPA source countered, what if the revenues don’t grow that much? Then what? The union says in that case players aren’t made whole on their contracts.”

“The NHLPA, sources on both sides confirmed Friday night, instead told the league Friday that it wants a guarantee that players won’t earn a dime less than the $1.883 billion in salaries made last season plus 1.75 percent on top of that. You can imagine the league’s reaction to that. The whole point of this lockout from the owners’ perspective is to back the players down from $1.883 billion a year in salary costs.”

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reported sources claimed the league negotiators believe the memo Fehr sent out on Thursday evening to the PA membership  claiming a “significant gap” still existed between the two sides didn’t accurately portray what the league was offering, which was a 50-50 split with existing contracts being honored, something the players reportedly want if they’re to return to action under the new CBA.

“The league has promised to honor all existing contracts and guarantee players their $1.883 billion share – or 57 percent of last year’s revenue, the sources say.
In exchange for going to 50/50 immediately, players would have the reduced part of their salaries (12.3 percent) deferred one or two years, “and the owners will pay them back, plus interest, and it would not go against their share and the league is guaranteeing it no matter where the revenue of the league goes,” said one of the sources.
In Year 1, players’ salaries would be reduced about $150 million. The players who have their salaries reduced would get every cent back in a lump payment in Year 2, the source says, plus interest. In Year 2, the players’ salaries would be reduced $61 million. Those players would get that money back plus interest in a lump payment in Year 3, the source says.
By Year 3, they’d be “equal” as long as revenues go up by 5 percent.”
A source also told Russo the league believes it’s on the same page with the PA on revenue sharing, other than for a couple of issues which still need to be discussed, and it was untrue the league was still wants to PA to agree to its contract demands.
CBC.CA: Elliotte Friedman reports reaction from his sources among the players to Russo’s story was swift and angry, seeing it as an attempt by the league to divide the players, while pointing out how few owners are attending the CBA talks.  Fehr responded to the Russo story by denying he hadn’t fully communicated with the PA membership, adding “NHLPA doesn’t feel it is as far apart on core economic issues as NHL says they are.” Friedman suggests the story could be the result of league and team owner frustration over Fehr’s negotiating style. “Among the complaints:
  • He doesn’t negotiate off their proposals.
  • He continues to make offers that include an overall salary raise for the players in year one
  • This week, he actually raised the amount of money he was looking for in revenue-sharing (to $260 million).
  • Friday, he kept the owners waiting before beginning scheduled talks; the second time that’s happened.
  • Rightly or wrongly, even moderates among the teams question his true devotion to the players, believing he has invested nothing in the sport and will damage it, simply walking away once this is all over. “
SPORTSNET.CA: Michael Grange believes a lack of trust between the two sides continues to hamper CBA negotiations. He provides further details on Fehr’s denials he’s not keeping the players informed.  “How to bridge the gap between the roughly $1.91 billion the players want to be paid next year and what the owners are willing to pay them remains a massive issue in a labour negotiation that is going nowhere at the moment”, writes Grange, who goes on to note the players also still want to be paid their full share for the 2012-13 season, regardless of how many games.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: David Shoalts reported NHLPA bargaining committee members Ron Hainsey and Craig Adams defended Fehr from allegations he’s not keeping the membership fully informed. Shoalts also reported Fehr clarified what the PA was seeking in its latest proposal. “Fehr said the players are seeking $1.883-billion but only an additional 1.75 per cent per year, which would be compounded over the length of the agreement. He said the union was not actually looking for this amount this season, it just wanted to establish it as part of a new economic system. Once that was done, the player salaries would be pro-rated for this season to account for any lost revenue because of a lockout-shortened schedule.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At some point in these recent talks tensions between the NHL and NHLPA had to boil over. From what I’ve read, it appears both sides are actually closer to getting a deal done, but frustration over how to reach a mutually satisfactory solution to the “make whole” option remains a significant sticking point, leading to the recent bit of mudslinging via the media.
I’m not shooting the messengers. The media has a job to do, and when they get newsworthy info from reliable sources, they’re going to report it. What we’re seeing now is the frustration and tension finally spilling over into public view after four days of lengthy discussion, with negotiators on both sides feeling pressure to get a deal done.
The league and team owners may be frustrated by Fehr, but that’s because they can’t see to figure him out. Yes, he’s playing mind games, but that’s no different than what Bettman and his crew have done, during this and in previous lockouts. Indeed, it’s obvious the league is attempting to drive a wedge between Fehr and the players by claiming he’s not keeping them fully informed of the league’s proposals. It’s the same tactic used when the league made details of its mid-October proposal public on Both sides are engaged in gamesmanship, but while they do, the season continues to burn away and fans grow more disgusted.
At some point,  both sides have to knock off these silly games and get down to reaching a resolution. It’s noteworthy Bettman and Fehr both expressed willingness to keep talks going today. Here’s hoping they do.