Saturday, October 27, 2012

November games axed by league

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: October 27th, 2012| Contact  |

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) roller coaster ride continues as the National Hockey League announced on Friday that the entire month of November has been axed from the schedule.

It has been over a week since the sides have met to discuss the CBA, and the lack of progress was the reasoning behind the cancellations. The last meeting between the sides looked promising at first as the NHLPA submitted three offers to the league, however, the league briefly reviewed the offers and rejected all three, calling them "disappointing". The first two proposals would see a gradual decline of the players' hockey related revenue (HRR) towards 50-50 based on revenue growth. The third proposal would be a 50-50 split of revenue, if the owners agreed to honor all existing contracts. However, the sides were not seeing eye-to-eye on the third proposal.

"The so called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players' Association earlier today is being misrepresented," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement."

"The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside of the players' share," he continued. "In effect, the Union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not. The Union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did."

NHLPA Director, Don Fehr explained the players' side.

"We said, here are two avenues that you can look at which the players are prepared to get down to in a reasonable amount of time given what happened to percentages which look like yours," Fehr said.

The sides have yet to start the negotiations back up, despite the NHLPA requesting a meeting earlier in the week, only to be turned down by league, who said there would be no reason to meet if the players were not willing to submit a new proposal, or negotiate off of the owner's proposal.

"They have no inclination on doing either and so there really was no point in meeting at this point," Commissioner Bettman said. "There are just some times where you need to take time off because it's clear that you can't do anything to move the process forward and we're at one of those points right now because we gave our very best offer. And, that offer, for better or for worse, was contingent on playing an 82-game season. So, I think things actually in some respects may get more difficult."

Things certainly got more difficult on Friday as the league pulled their proposal off of the table and responded with the cancelling of more games, this time a much larger chunk. With the November games cancelled, 26.5% of the 2012-13 season has already been axed, and with no more negotiations scheduled, it appears that things could get worse.

"The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action. By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to Player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game Regular Season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.
"We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the Players and the Clubs -- one that will be good for the game and our fans."
Fehr says that the league's decision to cancel the games is disappointing but certainly not surprising.
“The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular season games. This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise.
Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposal. We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honor contracts they have already signed. Honoring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.
Since then, we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions. The owners refused. They apparently are only interested in meeting if we first agree to everything in their last offer, except for perhaps a few minor tweaks and discussion of their “make whole” provision.
The message from the owners seems to be: if you don't give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking. They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon.”
The next deadline appears to be Dec. 1, but that may be the last deadline. The league could be close to cancelling the Winter Classic, as well as the All-Star Game, both of which could be removed from the schedule as early as next week. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says that the decision is not yet "imminent".