NHLPA expecting response to offers
The NHL and its Players' Association will negotiate again Friday — a fourth session in as many days — in a seemingly serious effort to end a lockout destined to hit Day 55.
“We're talking, and I think as long as that continues, it's got to be considered a positive,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said Thursday before the NHLPA and NHL began a session that lasted five-plus hours in New York City.
“When was the last time talks went this long?”
The NHL and NHLPA met multiple times over the course of four days the last week of August.
Negotiations this week have lasted about 19 hours over a period of three days. Prior to Tuesday, the sides had not met in a group format for more than a few hours total since owners enacted a lockout when the last labor deal expired Sept. 15.
“There's still a lot of work to do,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday after the league responded to two offers made by the NHLPA the previous day.
One union offer addressed revenue sharing among owners. The other offer targeted players' share of revenue and honoring of current contracts.
As of Thursday morning, the NHL and NHLPA had not found common ground on a time frame for implementation of a 50/50 division of revenue or the method for full payment of current players' contracts.
The union has also pushed for a revision of revenue sharing among clubs, proposing that higher-revenue franchises contribute more to weaker teams as is the case in Major League Baseball. Bettman has repeatedly said owners are “not interested in a baseball model.”
He also has said owners need immediate financial relief, even though revenue hit a record $3.3 billion last season.
Forbes Magazine recently reported that 18 clubs lost money last season, including the Penguins at around $250,000.
The NHL previously has proposed an instant move to a 50/50 revenue split on a new labor deal. The players, who received 57 percent of revenue under the last labor deal, have offered a gradual move toward 50/50.
The NHL and union each planned to conduct internal meetings Thursday night.
Union executive director Donald Fehr spoke after the afternoon meeting, but he offered only that negotiations would continue.
The feeling within the NHL and NHLPA is that negotiations are progressing toward possible framework for a new labor deal but that talks remain tenuous.
Seven players, but no Penguins, and three owners attended the meeting Thursday.
Games through November and the New Year's Day Winter Classic outdoor game have been canceled. The All-Star Game has not yet been shelved but only because the NHL has planned for a season of between 60 and 70 games if action begins during the first week of December.
Several players have said this week they believe the NHL feels pressure to do a deal because big North American sponsors are frustrated by the stoppage.
Players also have said that information relayed during a union conference call Monday sparked general hope that gaps were bridged during discussions last week between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and union special counsel Steve Fehr.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had not attended player-organized practices at Southpointe before Tuesday, and his return to Pittsburgh was not a coincidence.
“You want to be here if (the lockout) ends, be ready to go right away,” he said. “I don't have plans to leave unless maybe if something goes bad in New York.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5635.