'Wide gap' remains between NHL and players' union: Bettman
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 8:10AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 15, 2012 4:06PM EDT
The NHL and its players’ association remain “far apart” in collective bargaining talks ahead of the Sept. 15 lockout deadline, league commissioner Gary Bettman said a day after the union submitted a new proposal to the league.
Bettman said a counteroffer tabled Tuesday by the NHL Players’ Association, in which the game’s stars agreed to a lower percentage of league revenue, is not acceptable.
“We value the proposal and what it means in terms of its economics differently than the players’ association does,” he told reporters. “And I think there are still a number of issues where we’re looking at the world differently.
“There is still a wide gap between us. There is not much time to go, but this is a process that we are going to continue to work hard on.”
But NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the unresolved bargaining issues are “club-specific.”
“If there are remaining problems…we have to ask whether that’s the fault of the system,” he said, adding that it’s “not surprising” that union and management see each other’s proposals differently.
Fehr also said that players have not threatened job action and are trying to do everything they can to avoid a lockout.
“There is only one party here that’s talking about Sept. 15,” he said.
The union is willing to “sit and negotiate until we get the deal done,” he added.
The players’ proposal came a month after the league made its first offer, which called for a 24 per cent decrease in player salaries by lowering the union’s share of revenue. The proposal also outlined new contract restrictions, including a five-year cap on contracts.
The players’ counteroffer includes a proposal to delink the salary cap from hockey-related revenue, and instead set a fixed rate that would increase by two per cent in the first year, four per cent in the second and six per cent in the third. An option for the fourth year would allow the system to revert to the current arrangement, which gives players 57 per cent of all revenues.
The union has said the thinking behind their proposal is that owners will end up making more money, which could then be partly distributed among teams that are in dire financial straights.
"We do believe that the proposal the players made today, once implemented, can produce a stable industry ... that can give us a chance to move beyond the recurring labour strife that has plagued the NHL the last two decades," Fehr said Tuesday.
The union says players could be leaving as much as $465 million on the table if the league maintains average growth over the next three years.
The players’ association also said its proposal does not include significant changes to players’ contracts.
Howard Bloom, publisher of Sports Business News, called the players’ proposal “innovative,” saying the revenue-sharing proposal shows that the players want “to create a balanced NHL and 30 strong financial teams.”
Bloom told Canada AM Wednesday that the NHL also has the option of contracting and shedding as many as six teams, including Phoenix, Florida, Columbus and Dallas.
“Those teams aren’t making it financially, and what the players want is revenue sharing to create a balanced NHL and 30 strong financial teams,” Bloom said.
The league could also choose to move weak teams to stronger markets, including Quebec City, which is hungry for the return of NHL hockey.
Bloom believes a lockout is likely, despite Bettman’s claim that he hopes “we can take care of business in the next month,” and get a deal by the time the current contract expires on Sept. 15.
With files from The Canadian Press