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NHL, Union remain apart after latest proposal

Wednesday, 11.21.2012 / 9:20 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- After receiving and reviewing a comprehensive economic proposal for a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement from the National Hockey League Players' Association on Wednesday, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said the sides remain significantly apart.

But he also expressed hope there was some momentum created Wednesday that could lead to meaningful negotiations.

No further meetings are scheduled, but Commissioner Bettman said the Union informed the League it would be in touch Friday.

"I think it's frustrating for everybody and disappointing for everybody that it's taken this long and that we're still far apart," Commissioner Bettman said, "but we're going to stay at it."

Commissioner Bettman said he appreciated the Union presenting a comprehensive economic proposal that included movement in the direction of the owners on some of the economic issues that separate the two sides. However, he also expressed surprise that the offer the NHL made Oct. 16 -- one that, if agreed upon, would have saved an 82-game season -- did not produce a deal.

"We made a proposal to save an 82-game season and, frankly, we're all mystified we're not playing in light of that offer and in light of the fact that the players are losing, as a group, between $8 [million] and $10 million a day," Commissioner Bettman said. "We could have been playing. We could have been continuing the momentum this game had on an offer and an agreement that was long-term and fair.

"There's a lot about this process that one could scratch their head about."

Commissioner Bettman said the League's most recent offer is still on the table despite some owners suggesting it should be pulled.

That offer called for a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue (HRR) during the life of the agreement. Also in the proposal was an owner-funded "make-whole" provision, a mechanism designed to compensate players for the reduced value of their contracts in the first two years of a new CBA by reason of the negotiated reduction in players' share from the 57 percent of HRR they earned in the final years of the previous CBA to 50 percent.

"To expect our best economic proposal to get better as the damage continues to increase isn't particularly realistic," Commissioner Bettman said. "From an economic standpoint, we have given what we have to give. It was our best offer, and again, put it in the context that the business is probably losing between $18 [million] and $20 million a day and the players are losing between $8 [million] and $10 million a day.

"I don't think it's realistic for anyone to expect the economic deal to get any better, particularly when the economic deal we put on the table is a 50-50 deal -- and on top of that we agreed to pay over $200 million outside the system that we don't think there was any obligation to pay, but we knew it was an important element for the players and it was something that we hoped would spring these negotiations toward a conclusion."

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the proposal made Wednesday by the players was "a dramatic move" in the owners' direction.

Fehr said that the players moved "80 percent" in the direction of the owners based off of Commissioner Bettman's previous claim that the sides were $1 billion apart.

Based off of the Union's latest proposal, Fehr said the sides are $182 million apart in the division of hockey-related revenue in their respective proposals. Fehr also said that the Union had abandoned its insistence on a guaranteed dollar amount for the players when dividing up HRR. Instead, the NHLPA would accept a percentage-based formula in its latest proposal -- with the caveat that the players' share can not be less in any season of the agreement than it was in the previous season.

However, Fehr said the NHL's stance on the proposal was, "They appreciate it, but reiterated that they can't move."

"There was, as of today, no reciprocity in any meaningful sense," he added.

Fehr said he would report back to the players and did not want to comment on what would happen next in these negotiations until he did. The Union had a conference call Wednesday evening.

"One of you is going to ask me what happens next and the answer is I don't know," Fehr said. "We'll consider it, talk to the players and then see."

The NHL and NHLPA have been without a CBA since Sept. 16. The League has cancelled all games through Nov. 30 as well as the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which was scheduled for Jan. 1.

Commissioner Bettman said more cancellations become "inevitable as time goes on," but added he is not at all focused on a date on which the 2012-13 season would be cancelled.

"Quite frankly, we have proposed a long-term agreement that we think is fair and balanced," Commissioner Bettman said. "Assuming we can dig our collective way out of the hole that we're digging ourselves into, we expect that the players would make under the seven-year term that we proposed between $12 [billion] and $14 billion. We're having a tough time understanding why what we have proposed and what we have proposed previously hasn't been accepted and why we're not playing."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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