Slowly, progress being made
After a lengthy meeting yesterday afternoon that ran into Sunday morning, the
NHL and NHLPA will meet again.
TORONTO -- Yesterday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA
Special Counsel Steve Fehr got together at an undisclosed location
outside of New York City and Toronto to go over a variety of issues
surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation impasse.
Initially, it was believed the two sides were going to focus on the
NHL's willingness to honor the players' current contracts through a
"make-whole" provision. The NHLPA wanted to know more; how would that
be achieved, and will the balance of their contracts be guaranteed or
will a percentage fall into escrow?
I was on the air with my
TFP LIVE co-host Dennis Bernstein --
5-7pm ET, every Saturday on NHL Network Radio on SiriusXM (yup, cheesy
plug) -- when Sportsnet's John Shannon jumped on the program and told
us the two sides were still meeting. This was around 6:15pm ET, and we
figured the meeting began around 4pm or 5pm, so that sounded very
After I left the studio, went home and ate dinner, I received a
message around 8:30pm ET -- they were still meeting (which I'm told
took place in central USA -- the city is irrelevant). I was pleasantly
surprised. Following a few back and forth reports, I called it a
night. Daly and Fehr met until approximately 1am ET this morning.
That's roughly eight hours of face-to-face discussions... about not
only the "make-whole" provision, but a variety of CBA-related issues.
"We had a series of meetings yesterday and exchanged views on the most
important issues separating us," Daly told ESPN/TSN's
Pierre LeBrun. "We plan to meet again
sometime early this week."
Not only did they meet for a longer period of time than every single
CBA negotiation session, combined, the two sides (parts of them,
anyway) are going to meet as early as Monday.
I'm not being Mr. Optimist, because there is still a crapload of work
to be done and it's going to take some time to negotiate all the
details, but I'm feeling much more comfortable today about a potential
resolution than I did a few days ago.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, it's important to note the
importance of the "make-whole" provision.
With the players' share dropping from 57 per cent to 50 per cent of
hockey-related revenues (everyone's best friend, HRR), that equates to
an approximate drop of 13 per cent in players' salaries, which on the
surface shows the players' salaries being rolled back. That's not the
case (and not something the NHLPA would accept). Instead, as it was
explained to me by an NHL executive, the League is absolutely willing
to honor current contracts and has agreed to make them whole by
differing payments over the span of the new CBA.
But as I mentioned early, how that is achieved is what the NHLPA
Will they guarantee that all of that 13 per cent is being paid back to
the players? If so, part of the owners' 50 per cent share would be set
aside to compensate the players. If not, will a portion of that 13 per
cent be attributed to escrow, and how big is that portion?
Speaking to a few folks on the Players' side, they might be willing to
accept the latter, if a) the portion isn't large, and b) the NHL gives
up significant concessions related to other elements of the CBA (for
example, eliminating the NHL's request to put a cap on length of
contracts). But, their primary objective is to make sure that 13 per
cent is fully paid back.
Once this little item is addressed and agreed upon, the two sides will
get into the nitty-gritty of this CBA. Player contracts (both term and
money), entry-level contracts, arbitration rights, free agency
status... you know, the fun stuff.
There has already been significant damage caused by this lockout.
Regular-season games have been wiped out through Nov. 30. The Winter
Classic has been cancelled. Both sides are losing revenues. The fans
are pissed off. The networks are pissed off. The sponsors are pissed
off. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. How quickly we get
there remains to be seen.
This past week has been positive. The lines of communication have been
very open, so much so that I was told this morning that talks also
included a few other participants than just Daly and Steve Fehr. Add
in yesterday's marathon and you have to believe traction is being
Another positive: The NHL has no intention of cancelling any other
games or events for the foreseeable future (everyone in Columbus, home
of this season's All-Star Game, is holding their breath).
Shit got real yesterday (I can say that, we're a lifestyle brand).
Let's hope it carries into the week.