TORONTO -- National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday that a wide gap remains between what the League's owners want from the economic system that will govern the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and what the National Hockey League Players' Association offered Tuesday in its economic proposal.
Bettman made the statement after the latest negotiating session at the Union's office on Wednesday.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Sept. 15. Commissioner Bettman stated last week in New York that the League's owners are not willing to operate another season under the terms of the current CBA.
The League's owners made their initial economic proposal July 13.
"I think it's fair to say that we value the [Union's] proposal and what it means in terms of its economics differently than the Players' Association does," Commissioner Bettman said. "And, I think there are still a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently. I'm not sure that there has yet been a recognition of the economics in our world, and I mean the greater world and the sports industry, taking into account what recently happened with the NFL and the NBA.
"And, so there is still a wide gap between us with not much time to go, but this is a process that we're going to continue to work hard on. But, I do think it's fair to say that the sides are still apart, far apart, have different views of the world and the issues."
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the Union's proposal, if adopted, would partner the players with the franchises that don't need any assistance to help the franchises that may need assistance.
Fehr said Tuesday that the Union's proposal includes the players potentially taking a reduced share of hockey-related revenue for the next three seasons with an option to return the percentage of HRR they take in the fourth season back to what it currently stands at in the expiring CBA. The players are allocated 57 percent of the hockey-related revenues in the expiring CBA.
Fehr also said the Union's proposal includes an increased -- and more strategically targeted -- revenue-sharing system than what is currently in place.
And, Fehr said the Union's proposal keeps the salary-cap system in place with limited exceptions.
"There's obviously been an acknowledgement that we have issues," Commissioner Bettman said. "There has been an acknowledgement or an acceptance if you will that we're going to have a cap system. But, in terms of how we're looking at the world, and I say this on a broader sense as it relates to the game and the health and everything else, we're not on the same page."
Commissioner Bettman said the League's owners are not yet in a position to make a counter proposal because the Union has indicated that all of its proposals relating to the economic issues are not on the table.
"I'm not in a position to make a counter proposal until we see everything that they're prepared or interested in discussing and they're not at that point yet," Commissioner Bettman said. "I think since we started this process -- [NHL Deputy Commissioner] Bill [Daly] and I met with Don and [NHLPA legal counsel] Steve [Fehr] as early as June 4, and we had a formal bargaining session on June 29 -- it's a little disappointing not to have their full slate of proposals at this point with a month to go."
Fehr said the Union indicated to the League's owners that it is still considering some proposals relating to how player contracts would be governed in the new CBA. He said if the Union decided to go forward with any of the proposals it is considering, the League would have them next week.
"As we have discussed and agreed upon across the table, the player contracting issues are directly related to the economic proposals," Fehr said. "We did receive theirs. We have internally discussed what we should do in response to that in connection with our proposal. We gave them a number of subject areas today in which we are considering making some additional proposals. If we do, they'll have them next week, but they have almost everything."
The negotiating committees will return to the Union's offices Thursday for a sub-committee session, but Fehr was leaving Wednesday night to meet with players in Chicago and Kelowna, British Columbia during the next several days.
The next session that will involve negotiations on the core economic issues is scheduled for next Wednesday at the Union's offices. Fehr indicated that he and Commissioner Bettman will be talking by phone during his trip, and despite the fact the sides remain far apart the focus now is to continue to negotiate with the hope of finding common ground.
"I know what the game means and I know how important it is for our franchises and our game to be healthy from an economic standpoint, and we're working very, very hard," Commissioner Bettman said. "You know, it takes two sides to make a deal, it takes two sides to negotiate, and it takes two sides if it all goes bad. And, we're working very hard to hopefully keep it from going bad."
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