NHL, NHLPA set to meet
the wake of the NHL cancelling the Winter Classic, emotions started to run
wild, but doomsday hasn't arrived just yet.
TORONTO -- Earlier this week, I reported both on the radio and via
that little Twitter box thingy that the NHL and NHLPA have had
positive conversations and have been slowly making progress in their
attempts to come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Earlier today, you'd think that what I spewed out was total bullcrap
after the NHL announced the cancellation of the Winter Classic.
I understand why the NHL decided to nix their most prized in-season
event. There are several parameters involved (lead time, merchandise
sales, media hype, etc.), but truth be told, both the Detroit Red
Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs would rather have three-to-four months
of pimping the crap out of it to its fan base than four-to-six weeks.
This afternoon was filled with disappointment. Fans were pissed off.
Players were frustrated. NBC was upset. League sponsors were none too
Then, a couple of hours ago, news leaked out that the NHL told the
NHLPA the owners are willing to eat up the balance of the players'
salaries as part of a "make whole" provision.
While that sounds great on the surface, it's not entirely accurate and
there are now several misconceptions of what exactly took place.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr
have been talking all week. At some point during their conversations,
Daly indicated to Fehr that they were willing to make concessions on
the "make whole" provision. However, the exact details of their
offerings were unclear. How much of the players' contracts are they
willing to "make whole?" No formal document was presented, but it was
part of the dialogue.
Now, if the NHL is in fact willing to honor the players' contracts, in
full and out of their share, that is an extremely huge step forward.
It won't get a new CBA done, as there are many other items to discuss,
but it's a very significant item that should not be discredited.
On Thursday, the NHLPA held a conference call with its members --
approximately 70 were on the call -- to update everyone on Steve
Fehr's discussions with Daly. Several players left the call
optimistic, but still unclear, as details of the "make whole"
provision have yet to be presented.
According to several sources on both ends of the spectrum, the League
also indicated to the NHL Players' Association that they are open to
not only discussing that one topic, but every aspect of the CBA --
remember, the NHL pulled its previous offer off the table (yes, an
82-game season is no longer possible, but other aspects of their
proposal are still significant).
The two sides are going to meet face-to-face as early as tomorrow or
as late as Monday. They should know tonight. [Update 9:53pm ET:
Daly and Fehr will meet Saturday afternoon.]
The NHLPA wants to understand exactly what "make whole" means, and if
it means the players' will get their full contracts honored -- though
payments will be transitioned over the length of the new CBA -- then
we're inching much closer to an agreement.
The other thing to consider here is the All-Star Game. That's still
very much alive. The NHL could have easily cancelled that too today,
but there is much less planning for that event than the Winter
If talks continue to progress over the next few days, that could lead
to a deal in the coming weeks, which means the All-Star festivities
will either go ahead as planned, or they'll be pushed back (which
might be the most likeliest option).
This should be an intriguing weekend for everyone connect to the
sport. If you're a hockey fan, you'll want to pay attention.