Penguins rep: Hockey wants an NFL-like deal

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with reporters following labor talks with the NHLPA on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, in Toronto. (AP)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with reporters following labor talks with the NHLPA on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, in Toronto. (AP)
Photo by AP
| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 4:24 p.m.

Precedent set over the last year by football and basketball players may lead to clean sheets of ice when hockey players are set to convene for the opening of NHL training camps in late September.

Members of the NHL Players Association expect league commissioner Gary Bettman to push for a revenue split closer to 50-50 on a collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires Sept. 15.

“From the owners' perspective, I don't know how they view those other CBAs, but I know Gary has mentioned to the press that he looks at those two, and the NHL needs to be closer,” said Craig Adams, the Penguins NHLPA representative.

Negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA remain stuck on “fundamental economic issues,” Bettman said Thursday.

A bargaining session in Toronto lasted less than two hours.

The next meeting, which Bettman described as a “small group session,” is scheduled for Tuesday in New York. Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly will represent the NHL. Executive director Donald Fehr and his brother, Steve, will attend for the NHLPA.

Adams is not sure if he will attend the New York session, and he told the Tribune-Review that “nothing's changed in the past week” regarding negotiations.

League owners are not permitted to speak about CBA negotiations.

Adams, like Donald Fehr, said he is “optimistic” a new CBA can be reached before Sept. 15. The Penguins' first exhibition game is scheduled for Sept. 24, only two days after their tentative initial training-camp practice.

A contingency to that optimism is whether there is “mutual will” to do a deal, Fehr said in Toronto.

Two competing CBA proposals are on the table, but the NHL and NHLPA remain deeply divided on future revenue sharing. The latest NHLPA proposal, rejected last week by the NHL, included a willingness to keep the salary cap and to accept less than 57 percent of revenues for three years.

The NHL is largely pleased with the current economic system, which has sparked a competitive balance leading to a different club winning the Stanley Cup in each of the past seven seasons. However, league officials have talked openly about eliminating heavily front-loaded, long-term contacts such as ones signed by several unrestricted free agents this summer.

As part of the NHL proposal, deals would be capped at five years and would be required to pay the same amount each season.

Also, the NHL is believed to crave a revenue split similar to those inked by the NFL and NBA players in the last 12 months.

NFL players are guaranteed only 47 percent of revenues on the 10-year CBA reached last summer. NBA players received a 50-50 split of basketball income on its 10-year CBA that was agreed upon after a work stoppage that wiped 16 games from the last regular season.

“Certainly for the league, it behooves them to look at the players' share in football and basketball and say, ‘We want to be closer to what they've done in those sports,' ” Adams said.

The NHL will not budge on preserving the salary cap, league officials have said.

Adams said he “didn't know” if this could be considered crunch time to reach a deal because the NHL and the NHLPA have “found some common ground” on peripheral portions of a new CBA.

“But on the core economic issues, we're still far apart,” Adams said. “So far, we're early in the process. People don't want to hear that, but when you've sat out a whole year before, you realize it's only August. We have a long way to go.”

The Associated Press contributed.

Rob Rossi is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-380-5635.

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