Donald Fehr met briefly with the media tonight and said that there's still a lot of work to be done. He also stated that it's likely talks resume again tomorrow.
It's clear, after an insane amount of speculation and "leaks" in the media, that what is happening in the room is far different than what is being leaked to the media. The most likely scenario is that a team exec or owner, who is heavily involved in negotiations, is attempting to negotiate through the media because of frustrations over the possibility over making concessions to the players.
What we do know is that Fehr and Bettman refused to get involved in public name-calling today and said that further talks are still likely. That's the good thing.
The following article is for mere entertainment purposes, apparently. Disaster has not struck and it seems we could all be caught up in a very deliberate dance by the union and the league.
Meanwhile, thousands of workers continue to go without valuable paychecks.
The NHL and NHLPA met for a fourth consecutive day on Friday, with leaks and speculation continuing from Thursday as the secrecy of this week's meetings fell apart. On top of the fact that suddenly all of the big names in hockey media were suddenly getting updates as meetings were actually ongoing, a memo from Donald Fehr to the players was leaked to TSN and NBC Sports earlier on Friday before talks even started.
The memo, sent by Fehr to the players, Thursday night, painted a very dour picture of the situation between the union and the league. Here's an excerpt:
In addition, we received a revamped proposal covering players' share and cap issues, their so-called "make whole", and player contracting issues. The owners finally did formally give us their "make whole" idea, which in dollar terms is similar to the discussions Bill Daly had with Steve Fehr a few days ago. While a step forward, a significant gap remains. Moreover, at the same time we were told that the owners want an "immediate reset" to 50/50 (which would significantly reduce the salary cap) and that their proposals to restrict crucial individual contracting rights must be agreed to.
At issue is the fact that Fehr stated that a "significant gap" remains between the two sides, which apparently -- according to the league -- is far from the truth.
The two sides met for nearly five hours on Friday, discussing pensions, player contracts and core economic issues, but according to multiple reports no actual progress was made. After the meetings concluded, the NHLPA adjourned for a conference call with the NHLPA negotiating committee with neither Gary Bettman nor Donald Fehr saying much to the media.
What Bettman did say was that the league was willing to meet again tonight and through the weekend, if needed, saying "whatever it takes" in order to get a deal done. The ball is currently in the court of the NHLPA on whether further talks actually occur tonight.
That's where things get very, very interesting.
It seems that, according to multiple sources, the NHL is extremely upset with Donald Fehr and are basically accusing him of withholding information from the players. All week long the major issue in talks has been that the NHLPA is willing to meet the league at 50/50 on salaries, while also demanding more revenue sharing between the teams in order to further help out franchises and take the burden off the players.
The league has wanted to get to 50/50 automatically, in the first year of the CBA, while using the "make whole" offer to honor the full value of player contracts. The NHLPA has wanted to get to 50/50 by year 3.
The league has been under the impression that the majority of players are ready to get back onto the ice if revenues are split 50/50 and all contracts are honored in full. Several players have told the Star Tribune that in recent days.
That's exactly what the owners have offered the players, the sources say, something Fehr did not spell out in his memo. I have an email into the NHLPA asking if I can talk with Fehr or confirm what I'm about to report below.
The league has promised to honor all existing contracts and guarantee players their $1.883 billion share - or 57 percent of last year's revenue, the sources say.
Russo goes on to say that in exchange for going to 50/50 right away, the league is willing to honor the full value of contracts by deferring the lost 12.3 percent of salaries by one or two years and paying back the players then, with interest. According to his source, this would not go against the players' share and it would be guaranteed no matter what the league's revenue does in the coming seasons.
This is a major concession by the league, that apparently Fehr did not pass along to the players. At least, that's according those with the NHL.
NHLPA pushing back on Fehr not informing players about NHL offer. "Utter bull****"— adater (@adater) November 10, 2012
There is also talk that those with the league see Fehr as more of an "agitator" rather than a negotiator, with conspiracy theorists stating that Fehr is more interested in forcing a lost season upon the league and essentially blowing up the league and starting completely over from scratch.
Obviously, that's not going to go over very well with the league.
According to Russo's sources, and this has been repeated by other highly-respected hockey media, the league has felt that they were "close" on most of the core issues in the negotiations. The problem, once again, is that they feel that the players are not being fully informed of what is actually happening in the negotiating room.
But it's clear the league is getting very concerned that the players have not been told the nuts and bolts of their 50/50 proposal. And from the players I've talked to, they feel 50/50 plus honoring all contracts is fair once the other contractual issues are negotiated as well.
This is not the first time that rumors of Fehr not being completely truthful with the players has popped up, and given that the memo from Fehr was likely leaked by a player, there's speculation that the players themselves are starting to get upset by the leadership of the union.
That's just speculation, of course.
There's also the fact that, according to the league, Fehr is demanding the NHL pay 100% of the contract values for the 2012-13 season despite the fact that -- if a deal were reached today -- only 60-70 games would actually be played. Obviously, the NHL is never going to go for that.
So, where are negotiations right now? It's tough to say, but you wonder what the reaction from the players will be if it is true that Fehr is not being completely truthful with the union. There's a good reason that the league is suddenly letting it be known the details of what they are attempting to offer and concede on, through the media, which could not only be another PR ploy but also a move to make certain the players are fully aware of what is going on.
It's also clear that the league is attempting to drive a wedge between Fehr and the union, and likely that they see Fehr as the major obstacle to getting a deal done.
Then again, it's likely the players are more than aware of what is happening and are 100% behind the direction that Fehr is going.
It's also important to note that these "accusations" by the league have not been in public and only through the media. So take that for what it's worth.
According to multiple sources, the details of the NHL's offer were left off of the memo on purpose and that the NHL is needlessly attacking Fehr. Some players have stated that transparency under Fehr has been much, much better than the NHL is trying to make it seem.
This has entered full soap opera mode, folks.
At the very least, it's clear that negotiations are not going well. No matter what is actually happening in the room, what is being said outside of it is that while the two sides are getting closer and closer -- the NHLPA seems to be taking the hardline in negotiations and possibly holding up progress. Is it fair for the players to continue to fight for what they feel is what is right for them? Of course it is, but there's also the fact that with each passing day without a deal the league gets closer and closer to actual devastation.
The NHL must get back on the ice soon. I think the league believes this and have been pressured by sponsors, as well as possibly spooked by fan apathy and the response to the news of cancelling the Winter Classic.
We're getting closer to disaster for the league, and it's time the players and Fehr figure this out. Of course, that may be what Fehr has wanted all along.