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Owners wave off latest NHL players' offer
Just as all signs pointed to an agreement between the NHL and its players union, talks broke down again Thursday evening.
After two days of productive meetings this week, the NHLPA said the league has rejected its latest counterproposal and no further talks are planned.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the union has "responded comprehensively" during the past two days of talks that purposely left out the key leaders of both sides. He said player pensions and transition payments are the current roadblock.
Fehr said at a press conference following one hour of talks Thursday night that he thought the sides could bridge the gap and the players' latest proposal was an "outline."
"We were advised in a voice mail message that the moves the players made were not acceptable, there was no reason to stay around for meetings tonight or tomorrow, that they would be in touch," Fehr said.
"It looks like this is not going to be resolved in the immediate future. I hope that turns out to be wrong but that's certainly what the message is that we have today."
Fehr and more than a dozen players presented the proposal to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and a league lawyer during a meeting that lasted one hour before the NHL officials left to report the offer to the league office.
"We have moved very substantially in the owners' direction on things like contract length and variability and term of agreement and we hope and believe and expect that this should put us on the road to a quick end to this dispute," Fehr said.
The NHL has yet to comment on Thursday's events.
Fehr also said the NHL countered with an eight-year collective bargaining agreement with an opt-out clause after the sixth year. The NHL had wanted a 10-year CBA with a Year 8 opt-out.
Thursday's talks included few members of the players and owners groups that had carved out labor progress the past two days. Enough movement was made that some outlets were reporting that the sides had discussed how to salvage a 56-game season.
Earlier Thursday, the NHLPA had requested the return of federal mediators in the hopes of speeding up a deal. It was unclear if the NHL had agreed to that request.
Representatives from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services met with the two sides for several hours last week, but couldn't move the process forward.
"We obviously had a number of meetings (Wednesday) over many hours," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com after Thursday's meeting. "Had good candid dialogue on a lot of issues. There continue to be some critical open issues between the two parties and we understand the union should be getting back to us (Thursday) on some of those issues."
Three months of negotiations led to owners dropping requests for changes to free agency and arbitration, and upping their make-whole provision offer to $300 million. As a compromise, owners wanted a 10-year contract, with the ability to opt out after eight seasons.
The NHLPA agreed to a 50-50 revenue split in hockey-related revenue in their most recent offer, a concession from the previous collective bargaining agreement which gave players 57 percent. Getting to 50-50 was the owners' primary objective.
Owners have maintained their request to cap free-agent contracts at five years, but have allowed for teams to sign their own players for up to seven years. They have also kept their demand for a 5 percent maximum year-to-year swing on multiyear contract salaries. Owners wanted this change to end the business of adding low salary years at the end of contracts to decrease the average salary amount for cap purposes.
The 81-day lockout has resulted in 2½ months without games as well as cancellations of the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.