Another week of precisely zero optimism and zero progress in NHL CBA talks has passed, and we're now just 23 days ahead of Sept. 15, the date that will yield the third NHL lockout in 17 years if the two sides can't reach an agreement before then.
Representatives from the NHL and the NHL Players' Association met again at NHLPA headquarters in Toronto Thursday. 13 players joined various executives from both sides attended the bargaining session, which hinged mostly on economic issues and player contract rules. A split of hockey-related revenues remains the major sticking point.
"We believe we are paying the players more than we should be," commissioner Gary Bettman told the media following the day's meetings. Bettman also attempted to shift the blame to the players, saying that the NHL's side was ready to begin talks "in January" while Fehr took time to meet with players in preparation for negotiations.
The owners' initial proposal called for a sharp 24 percent roll back in current salaries in addition to a giving just 43 percent of HRR to the players. The players' initial proposal called for 54 percent of HRR to their side without a salary rollback. The current CBA gives players 57 percent of HRR, but NHLPA chief Donald Fehr says that his side believes the split is closer to 50/50 based on total, not just hockey-related, revenue.
Taking the podium after Bettman, Fehr expressed that the owners' current position is not all that surprising, saying the desire of employers to pay their employees less is a natural one.
"We want more flexibility and the league doesn't want that," Fehr said.
The league's initial proposal had severely limited the players' options with regards to contract rules. It would push unrestricted free agency eligibility to 10 years instead of the current seven, would limit all contracts to a five-year maximum length, would end salary arbitration all together. The owners seem unwilling to budge on those issues and the players seem unwilling to compromise
Bettman noted that revenue sharing is not much of an issue between the two sides and that they're closer on that than previously believed. The sides will meet again on Tuesday at the NHL's offices in New York City.