NEW YORK -- National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday the League's owners made a proposal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that included "meaningful movement" in an attempt to avoid a work stoppage that would begin this weekend.
The League's proposal was drafted after a proposal from the National Hockey League Players' Association was introduced at the start of Wednesday's meeting at the League office.
Commissioner Bettman said the League felt the Union's proposal Wednesday did not move significantly from the NHLPA's original proposal, which was made Aug. 14. The owners, according to Bettman, did not feel the Union proposal would provide the framework for a deal.
"We decided that in the hopes of moving these negotiations along before the weekend that we would make yet another proposal, which we did," Commissioner Bettman said. "It had meaningful movement in it and it was an attempt to engage the Union finally in trying to make a deal on economic main issues.
"We made clear in presenting the proposal that this proposal was intended to lead to a deal before the weekend, before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that if in fact a deal was not achievable what we had proposed would be off the table. We were quite clear on that."
The current CBA expires Sept. 15.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said the Union's proposal Wednesday was made based on the players' belief that they should not have to take an absolute-dollar reduction in salary, that they are amenable to a reduced share of hockey-related revenue over time, and that revenue sharing should be enhanced.
"The players made a new proposal, which we hope addressed a number of concerns that the clubs had raised," Fehr said. "They [the NHL owners] made a responsive proposal. It obviously has to be studied. We hope they're going to be studying our proposal too.
"It is too early to say whether or not this will represent any meaningful progress. That remains to be seen."
Commissioner Bettman said there is no redefinition of hockey-related revenue in the League's new proposal, a change from previous proposals that sought to have HRR redefined.
He added that the League moved another $250 million to $300 million in the players' direction -- that's in addition to the $460 million it moved in the players' direction in its previous proposal.
Commissioner Bettman also said the League's proposal contemplates a reduction in the players' share that is less than 10 percent for the first year, a number that would go down in subsequent seasons.
In addition, Commissioner Bettman confirmed that the players' share of HRR in the NHL's new proposal would be higher than the 46 percent the owners offered in their previous proposal.
The players' share of HRR for the 2011-12 season was 57 percent.
"Our proposal, the one that is time sensitive, will have a phase-in and it contemplates a possible reduction in the players' share," Commissioner Bettman said. "If you use our estimates [for economic growth] it would be under 10 percent, and if you use the Players' Association's estimate on revenue growth it would actually be 7 percent. When you factor all of that in, it seems to me that having a work stoppage and damaging HRR long-term really doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
The proposal would be off the table after the expiry of the current CBA because the goal is to "stem" damages to the business, according to Commissioner Bettman.
"What we would be prepared to do now to make a deal before there is extensive damage is not the same that we'll be prepared to do in the event where we had suffered the damage," he said.
The sides do not have any formal negotiations scheduled, but it's possible they could meet at any time, Commissioner Bettman said.
The NHL has a Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Thursday, but Commissioner Bettman said only a couple of hours are blocked off for that meeting and the League is willing to engage in further negotiations if the Union is prepared.
The NHLPA has Executive Board and Negotiating Committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Approximately 275 players are in New York to attend those meetings, according to the Union.
Fehr said he expects the sides to talk at some point Thursday, but he wasn't sure if it would be before or after the Board of Governors meeting.
"There's enough time if people want to make a deal," Commissioner Bettman said, "and it takes two sides to make a deal."
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