NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL and the Players' Association had their longest negotiating session in nine months on Wednesday, and the league presented six
possible concepts for a new economic system.
Little progress was made on a new deal, but the representatives met for four hours in the league's Manhattan office to try to come up with a plan that
would prevent a lockout next season. It was the fourth meeting since negotiations began last October. Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said
talks were substantive and that there was a detailed discussion on at least some of the proposed ideas. He added that NHLPA negotiators requested more
information that the league will provide before the parties meet again Aug. 4 in Toronto.
"We want to make sure, in fairness to the process, we fully understand everything they're considering and putting forth so maybe we can look at
that and find different ways to address the issues,"
said Ted Saskin, the Players' Association senior director.
Since the first negotiating session, the league and the Players' Association met in Toronto in April and again in May at the Stanley Cup finals. Those
meetings totaled six hours.
"I would say it was the most substantive in terms of information provided and concepts discussed,"
Daly said of Wednesday's session. "It's
all a process, and you have to continue to work hard at the progress. Hopefully at the end of the day that produces good results."
The current deal, extended twice since it was hammered out in 1995, expires Sept. 15. If a new agreement isn't reached, a lockout that could threaten
the entire season is expected.
"It's hard to take a snapshot at any point in the process and say you're optimistic, pessimistic, whatever,"
Daly said. "You just continue
to work toward a goal."
But Saskin said the goal can't be reached if the NHL doesn't change its position of demanding a hard salary cap. He said that having discussions is
better than not, but there has to be some change in the philosophical differences to prevent a lockout.
"We've approached each meeting thus far in the process with a desire to negotiate a fair deal,"
Saskin said. "Unfortunately we need to have
a negotiating partner with more objectives. They have only one view of how they want to do things and that hasn't enabled us to advance the
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has vowed on behalf of the owners to work out a deal with the union that will radically change the financial landscape.
He is determined to make sure the percentage of revenues paid out in player salaries is sliced, and to establish "cost certainty" for clubs. An
economic study commissioned by the NHL found that players get 76 percent of all league revenues, far more than the percentage for the other major team
sports. The Players' Association has challenged many of the league's financial findings. Daly said that each of the new concepts was designed to
address the league's cost-certainty objectives but not all the ideas involved a mandatory link between revenues and player costs.
"We had some spirited discussions but I can't say that we made any progress,"
he said. "Each (concept) is predicated on agreeing to a
negotiated percentage for player compensation, i.e., a salary cap. So there hasn't been any change from that perspective. They remain fixated on a cap
and we remain committed to negotiating a fair agreement that retains a marketplace."
In previous discussions, the NHLPA has countered the idea of a salary cap with a proposal of a luxury tax, a percentage rollback in player salaries,
changes in entry-level salaries and revenue sharing.
Bettman has said owners will wait as long as necessary to achieve their goals. If so, the next lockout could be worse than the one that lasted 103
days and cut the 1994-95 season nearly in half. Owners have been preparing for that possibility for the last several years, and have built up a $300
million war chest. But that won't be enough to protect many NHL employees who found out Tuesday that their jobs are in jeopardy if a lockout takes
place. Bernadette Mansur, the NHL's group vice president of communications, said over 50 percent of NHL employees in New York, New Jersey, Toronto and
Montreal will be laid off on Sept. 20 if a new CBA isn't reached by the 16th.
Those who work until the 20th will receive a severance package, plus vacation compensation and extended medical benefits.
"We hope that we'll never have to implement this contingency plan, but our employees need to know the details so they can plan the future,"
Mansur said. "It's all departments and it's all levels in all departments."
Those hardest hit would be the ones that are game-related, such as the credentialing and broadcasting departments.