After cancelling a collective bargaining meeting on Wednesday, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association met for 90 minutes on Thursday. There’s really no forward progress to report.
It was the first full bargaining session of the week, but we’re left with no increase in optimism when it comes to starting the upcoming season on time.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr did address the media, though, and they highlighted some of the remaining obstacles.
Bettman said there is a wide gap between the two sides, who are struggling to reach a common ground in the way of fundamental economic issues.
“The bigger point that I think we made [Thursday] goes to the fact that whether or not we’re talking about these contract or system issues or we’re talking about revenue sharing, it’s clear that we’re at a point where it’s going to be difficult to move this process along until we deal with the fundamental economic issues, and certainly as it relates to the fundamental economic issue, we are far apart both in terms of magnitude and structure,” Bettman told reporters.
This isn’t good news for hockey fans, as a delayed start to the season is looking more and more likely. The deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement is set for Sept. 15, and the news coming out of the negotiations has been mostly doom and gloom.
The players appear willing to start the season under the terms of the old CBA, but the owners are less willing to go down that route.
“The players have done very well under this deal,” Bettman said. “The average salary has gone from $1.45 million to $2.45 million and I think they’ve given their druthers and said publicly they’d be happy to play under this deal, even while we negotiate … My sense is they prefer to keep things the way they are, which kind of slows part of the process.
“We believe we’re paying out more than we should be. And it’s as simple as that.”
Bettman noted that the two sides will continue to work in order to eliminate the possibility of losing games, but he also made it clear that a deal has to be right in order for dropping the puck to make sense.
The commissioner also called hockey fans the “world’s greatest,” while also emphasizing that the league survived the last lockout. But some skeptics wonder whether the league would be able to survive another work stoppage, especially considering how long it took for the NHL to get back on its feet the last time around.
Fehr is at least remaining hopeful, expressing the only thing really working in everyone’s favor at this point.
“I still think there’s enough time,” Fehr said.