The hammer fell on Friday as the NHLPA and the NHL announced that current negotiations have now halted as the two sides cannot reach a fundamental agreement on player revenues. As NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman separately met with the media, the blame game began as both sides pointed to the other as the reason that negotiations have ceased.
Neither could even agree on which one actually called off negotiations.
What is clear, however, is that both sides are attempting to bridge the gap between fundamental differences in not only player revenues but how overall league revenues are generated. The NHL submitted a proposal earlier this week that called for a six-year CBA and significant reductions in player salaries, that would drop the salary cap to $58 million in 2012-13. Where the issue was, however is the fact that the league would get to that cap by asking the players to withhold an even larger portion of their salaries in escrow -- a concession the players were not willing to make.
The major issue facing negotiations right now is the fact that the two sides aren't even speaking the same language. The NHLPA's presentation to the league today was apparently not a counter-proposal to the NHL's proposal and more of a "response," at least in the eyes of the league and Bettman.
What did both sides have to say today? Let's take a look after the jump.
Fehr spoke to the media first, the one who initially dropped the bombshell that talks had stalled and began by invoking discussion of the 2004-05 NHL lockout. The NHLPA was still holding on strong to their "short term" proposal with the players making significant concessions over the next three years, at least according to Fehr.
The NHLPA proposed that the players' share of revenue would fall in the first three years then "snap back" to the current 57 percent level in year four, with the NHLPA making several proposals to bring that level to less than 57%. Fehr stated that he wants to "break the cycle" of the owners reducing salaries and the salary cap and that he still believes in the revenue sharing proposal the NHLPA had previously made, as well as suggesting the creation of an "industry" growth fund.
Fehr would continuously cite that the NHLPA is willing to work with the big market teams to help the other teams in the league.
Where the big issues comes, apparently, is in how the NHLPA views the team-by-team financial reports they received with Fehr stating that the league financials are better than is being portrayed, another reason that the NHLPA is unwilling to make further concessions.
Fehr would conclude by saying that talks can resume at anytime the league is willing to pick up the phone and begin discussions again.
Gary Bettman would not pull any punches, however, saying that the NHLPA "stonewalled" the league in negotiations today and what had been a promising week had ended in disappointment. Bettman seemed to suggest that both sides continue to circle around differing issues and that someone needs to "say something new" for negotiations to progress forward.
Bettman would disagree with the notion that the Sept. 15 deadline is a make or break deadline for the league or players, saying there is still plenty of time for an agreement to be reached. However, if talks progress past Sept. 15 then "concessions become more difficult to make." Some agents have pointed to Oct. 11 as the true deadline, the date the players get their escrow payments, a notion that the NHL dismisses -- Sept. 15 is the true deadline.
It seemed as if the NHL was frustrated with the pace of negotiations, stating the league was willing to talk as early as the All-Star break and that the the NHLPA is not in a rush to get a deal done. "Maybe the strategy was to get everyone mad at us," said Bettman, in regards to the waiting game the NHLPA appears to be playing.
"If you look at the history of these negotiations, there doesn't seem to be a rush," said Bettman.
Bettman would say that discussion about the details of revenue-sharing is a "distraction" and that the league is focused on what they are paying the players, and that the notion that it was the NHL that recessed CBA negotiations is "inaccurate and unfair."
The commissioner would finish his talk with the media by pointing to eight work stoppages in the MLB and the player strike before the World Series under Fehr as a sign that the NHLPA is not willing to make concessions to get the season started on time.
"I wish I had better news, everybody."
And that's that.
The NHL and the NHLPA are obviously worlds apart on several very important issues, with the NHL not even willing to discuss the actual definition of Hockey Related Revenue at this time. While there is still time for an agreement to be made in time for the season -- and at the very least only lose a small portion of the season -- we are now playing the waiting game to see which side blinks first and makes the first major concession.
As it stands now, neither one is willing to do that.