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NHL rejects union's offer, Bettman rips Fehr

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 6:34 p.m.
NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr arrives for labor talks at NHL headquarters in New York on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano

NEW YORK — NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr said it was the best offer he could make.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman not only declined the offer but also called out Fehr in a news conference Wednesday.

Bettman accused Fehr of manipulating the media to paint an offer that was more genuine than the commissioner believes is accurate.

“I know there has been a lot of discussion about the terms,” Bettman said. “While we were upstairs reviewing it, (Fehr) came down to talk about the proposal itself. I'm not sure that any discussion that goes on in the public forum while negotiations go on is either constructive or accurate. There seems to be a lot of spinning and gamesmanship going on for (the media's) benefit.”

Bettman also said of Fehr: “Don can say what he wants. I will not negotiate through the media.”

Fehr made an offer Wednesday morning that the NHL rejected in two hours. He seemed miffed by how quickly the NHL dismissed his offer.

“On the big things,” Fehr said, “there was no reciprocity in any meaningful sense. No movement on the players' share. No movement on salary arbitration eligibility. No movement on free-agency eligibility. No movement on a pension plan, although they said they'd like to do it.”

Players received a memo from the union that described the proposal as including “substantial moves in order to address all of the owners' concerns.”

Penguins players touted the move as a concession to begin an even revenue split. Players received 57 percent during the last labor contract, and past proposals called for an eventual move toward an even split.

Owners would get their immediate 50-50 revenue split under the NHLPA's proposal. Players would receive $393 million — up from the NHL's $211 million offer — to honor current contracts over the five-year labor proposal.

The salary cap would never dip below $67.25 million in the NHLPA offer. The cap hit a high of $64.3 million last season and was slated to hit $70.2 million this season before the last labor deal expired. Also, there would be a salary cap provision to deter long-term, front-loaded contracts that are new and are a minimum of nine years.

Several Penguins players said the proposal was designed to gauge the NHL's interest in quickly starting the season. Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who attended the Monday meeting in New York, described the deal as “fair.”

Players said they feared the NHL would cancel games through at least mid-December — and possibly the entire month — if the union didn't provide an offer that started with a 50-50 revenue split.

Games already are canceled through Nov. 30.

“Canceling games is something we're going to look at daily,” Bettman said. “It's something that's going to become inevitable.”

Bettman, though, didn't sound like he was done negotiating.

“It was good to finally have a comprehensive proposal to work off,” Bettman said. “There was movement on some issues by the Players' Association, and that was appreciated. There was movement by us on some issues. But we're still far apart.”

No other meetings are scheduled.

Josh Yohe and Rob Rossi are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Rossi can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com. Yohe can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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