September 12, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHLPA executive director Don Fehr (center) during a press conference at the 2012 NHLPA summer player meetings at the Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Two Weeks Into The Lockout, Are They Closer To An Agreement?

In what seems to be a big game of ‘I don’t want to talk about that’ and ‘It’s their fault, not our side’, we enter week two of the lockout. We have officially lost the entire preseason. They are admitting that regular season games are at risk.

In two separate sessions, the NHL and NHLPA met over a span of six hours yesterday. Much was accomplished, it is being reported, with non-core economic issues. The League and the Union discussed player-safety issues, drug testing, training and conditioning camps, scheduling, and other topics related to working conditions.

“I wish we spent today on what we consider to be the more meaningful issues, but it is what it is,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said following a day of negotiations. “[We] can’t make them talk about what they don’t want to talk about,” Daly added. “In fairness, we do have to cover off these issues if we’re going to reach an agreement. So, what we’re doing today is important, it’s just not the most important things we can be doing.”

They plan on meeting again this morning (Saturday) to discuss Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) issues that include, but are not limited to, circumvention and system arbitration procedures and processes. They are not prepared to discuss the main issue, the distribution of the HRR. On a positive note, the league has also made room for discussions on Sunday.

“I don’t think it can be any more urgent than where we are now,” Daly said. “We’ve had that level of urgency for a long time, but as I’ve said, you can meet all you want, if there is no compromise or no movement or no new proposals, I’m not sure at the end of the day what you’re meeting over. I think there is a very high degree of urgency certainly on our side. I can’t speak for their side, but I’m sure they would tell you there is a degree of urgency there too.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr did not attend the morning session. They had a private meeting of their own on Friday. It’s not being said of what they talked about, but Daly indicated that it is ‘not dissimilar to what has gone throughout this process’.

So in a nut shell, there is progress as they are coming to agreements on other issues that are necessary to form a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). They are talking, and talking a lot. Three days in a row for several hours a day. However they can’t go on avoiding the real issue of the HRR distribution. The NHL is making it sound like it is being held up solely by NHLPA. They are saying that they are willing to, and want to discuss the issue. In fact, Daly is sounding down right frustrated that the players aren’t ‘willing’ to talk HRR distribution, and that they have yet to come up with a proposal that differs from the one submitted on August 14th. The league is not going to even consider that one. They talk about how the players need to compromise, and I agree… to an extent. As I’ve said a thousand times already, I feel that both sides need to compromise. Stubbornness is not going to fix anything. The players want their contracts honored. I can’t argue with that. If my boss offered me a salary of X amount of dollars over the next two years, I would expect him to honor it. Don’t offer it if you can’t go through with it. Period. (I don’t feel sorry for the owners as many of them rushed to get ridiculous contracts done before the lockout deadline. With that said, that is not all owners, and I know that some are truly struggling financially.)

If cards are played right, this weekend’s discussions can be truly productive. It’s not over until it’s over. There is a chance of salvaging this season. We will keep you updated of any news that comes out of these talks. Be sure to check out ‘The Hub’ on the right side of the page for videos, tweets, and links.

Dolly Dolce

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