It is Day 33 of the NHL lockout, and it appears that number will keep growing for a while.
There was a sliver of optimism heading into today’s crucial labor negotiations. On Tuesday the NHL put forth their 50-50 “even split” offer, which the NHLPA responded to today. The hockey world had its fingers crossed, hoping there would be steps taken forward. Commissioner Gary Bettman told a fan, “[we’re] going to get a deal done.”
Predators defenseman Shea Weber even said, “We’re positive right now. The latest offer they had was a good starting point. Now we can start negotiations.”
That balloon of optimism popped quickly as commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media in Toronto. Bettman said the NHLPA’s response was “in many ways a step backward” and that the two sides are “not speaking the same language.”
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, who along with 19 players delivered three proposals to the NHL this afternoon, put the cherry on top by saying, “Today is not a good day. It should have been, but it wasn’t.”
The two sides may be posturing and putting their own spin on the negotiations, but the fact remains the 2012-13 season is back to being in jeopardy after the cautious optimism that November 2nd could be the start date to an 82-game campaign.
Earlier today, Predators forward Mike Fisher said he didn’t think the NHL’s offer was a fair deal. His biggest issue with the owners is the contracts.
“These contracts that teams ran out to sign before they knew the CBA was expiring, and now they’re saying they want [some of that money] back – any business or person with a conscience knows that’s not good business,” Fisher said just minutes after being on the first NHLPA conference call of the day. “That’s what we don’t like, the fact that all these teams signed [players] hoping to get a discount later; we don’t feel that is the right way to run a business. They should honor those contracts. We are willing to work towards that 50 [percent] as teams grow; that’s huge for us to work in that direction.”
That was a precursor to the NHLPA’s trio of proposals, all of which were immediately shot down by Bettman. A lot of what Fisher said appears in the union’s third proposal, where the PA offered to take the 50-50 split – if the NHL would honor the current contracts. Heck, all three of the PA’s proposals would eventually get to 50-50 at some point down the road. Why that wasn’t negotiable from the NHL’s standpoint is anyone’s guess.
The two sides may be farther apart than what it appears on the surface. Then again, they may be closer than what Bettman and Fehr want everyone to believe.
The public perception last week was it was the owners’ fault for asking for too much and not negotiating with the players union. This week it’s the Players’ fault for not accepting the NHL’s 50-50 offer. Now it’s the league’s fault for walking out on the PA’s three offers, none of which Bettman characterized as being in the stratosphere.
It’s an embarrassing three-ring circus. Where it stops, nobody knows.
“None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time,” said Bettman, who is content to going back to New York instead of staying in Toronto and working on a deal before his self-proposed deadline of October 25th to save an 82-game season.
“The vibe we got was, unless you’re prepared to sign with very minor variations, don’t bother us,’” said Fehr.
People will say the NHL is winning the PR battle because they were the ones to back down from their initial offer. Others will disagree, saying the Players are the ones actually willing to negotiate. Who cares?
The truth is nobody is winning. Instead, everybody is losing – the owners, the players and, most importantly, the fans.
Day 33 of the NHL lockout was the most important one yet – and it provided anything but optimism.