Chris Mason was one of many Predators players that returned to Nashville last night after a two-day session in New York City in which over 250 players attended the ongoing labor negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA.
The negotiations, headed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, aren’t going well. The two sides are far apart and neither party is backing down. (Here is a quality breakdown from the Globe and Mail.)
“I found that the guys (NHLPA) really want to make a fair deal,” Mason said of his trip to New York, “and it’s just a matter of having a partner that is willing to negotiate. It’s tough that the first offer that they made was completely terrible, and then when Gary moves a little bit off the initial offer he claims they’re being so generous when the reality is both sides have to give here. We need more revenue sharing from top earning teams and in our proposal we’ve already taken less percentage. You need both sides willing to make the change; not just one.”
The last time the NHL had a lockout, they lost the entire 2004-05 season. This will be the third lockout under Bettman’s watch since he took over in 1993.
“In my opinion that’s a black mark,” said Mason. “I know he’s got a job to do and they have parameters they want to hit, but when you’re doing things like that and you’re saying you really do care about the fans, that’s pretty transparent to me.
“Business is business and he’s got to do what he’s hired to do, but at the same time you have to look at the bigger picture here. You have to make some of the owners that are irresponsible spending beyond their means a little more accountable to each other.”
Bettman has received a lot of criticism from hockey fans (when does he not?), but so has Fehr simply due to his past experiences with Major League Baseball and its lockout in 1994.
“The guys really believe in Fehr and he’s been great. He explains everything out in the open, explains our intentions,” Mason said. “The bottom line is he wants to – and we all agree – have a system in place that is healthy moving forward instead of having that will have us back here doing this again.”
The NHL is scheduled to begin its season less than a month from now, but that looks to be in doubt at this point in time. If a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by 11:59 PM ET on Saturday night, a lockout will commence.
“Honestly, I think all of us expected this date to come and have this situation where there is uncertainty,” said Mason. “We’re at a point now where hopefully start making a little progress and kind of get on the same level.
“It sucks. This is the bad part of being a hockey player.”
Pekka Rinne arrived in Nashville this week, then went to New York to be involved in the labor negotiations. Rinne made his first on-ice appearance at Centennial Sportsplex today during informal workouts. Rinne’s summer consisted of a vacation to Italy and Spain, as well as some fishing trips.
What about his plans if there is a lockout?
“Right now I just want to stay patient and see what is going to happen and support everyone and be here,” said Rinne. “As [players] we need to prepare in case something happens and training camp starts. If the lockout drags for a long time then I will think about it and maybe find out some options.”
Mason said he hasn’t thought about going overseas.
“I’m just going to train here and hold out hope and maybe get a little more involved in the meetings,” he said.