The NHL and NHLPA met in New York for two hours on Tuesday morning with talks producing little optimism that the lockout is close to coming to an end.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that "no progress was made" during the talks, and added that the day was "not overly encouraging." The sides will remain in contact, but no further talks have been scheduled.
Now that the entire exhibition season has been lost, something that Daly claims has already cost the NHL $100 million, and the opening of the regular season is supposed to take place in just a little more than a week, the next major announcement we should expect from the league is the cancellation of the first regular-season games.
It's expected that the NHL will do that in the next 48 hours -- certainly before the end of the week. With no more talks scheduled, chances of the season starting on time are practically zero.
But at some point in a labor battle, things inevitably start to turn nasty. And it appears that time is nearing.
In addition to saying no progress was made, Daly had this to say about the overall state of negotiations:
"Unless they [NHLPA] show some willingness to compromise, I don't know how we get this done.
"We do think that's the only thing that is going to allow us to gain traction."
That's been the NHL's mantra for some time now. It is waiting for the NHLPA to present the next offer and essentially asking for it to be reasonable. What's reasonable, you ask? NHLPA boss Donald Fehr mentioned what's reasonable for the NHL after the meetings recessed.
"The definition of no progress that comes out of the NHL office seems to be 'They didn't give us what we want yet.'"
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And there we have it. Thems sound like fightin' words, or at least a lot more pointed than Fehr was before.
It's hard to say that Fehr isn't right, however. Without trying to take sides too much, it does seem hard to take the NHL's stance that the NHLPA has to concede when they are asking for massive reductions across the board. If the NHL reduces its share of the hockey-related revenue pie in an offer, it's not conceding anything. It's just not trying to take as much from the players. Considering the NHL is the one demanding the reductions, the only way the NHL is possibly conceding anything in HRR talks is if the players' share goes up. That might just be semantics, but it's the way it is.
Squabbling over the words and posturing ends up being a fruitless exercise, however. In the end, both sides are probably right, which makes it all so wrong for fans. As long as they are using these words and holding these positions then they are getting nowhere toward reaching a new deal. Any way you slice it, that stinks.
That wasn't it for the contentious quotes, though. Blame has begun to be slung around like mud -- it is stumping season, after all -- and there's been some mud thrown toward the union for delaying negotiations. You'll remember it took a long time for the talks to even start because Fehr said he wasn't yet prepared. Well on Tuesday he told the NHL to "look in the mirror" for any complaints about the pace. The blame game can be so fun (not really).
As for the actual meeting on Tuesday that produced "no progress?" It had to do with making concessions, as Fehr put it.
They were discussing the definition of HRR with the NHL looking to "clarify" it and lower the amount of money (in Fehr's point of view) that goes in and is thus unavailable to the players. In other words, just by changing what defines HRR, the players could keep the same percentage of the revenue as they do now and see a reduction. If the NHL asks for that, as well as a massive reduction in the players' HRR share, you can see why the NHLPA is reluctant. It has the potential to be a double decrease.
We aren't at a level of complete toxicity yet, but every passing day seems to get closer and closer.
But hey, at least there's this.
Don Fehr said he would probably speak with Gary Bettman again later today or tomorrow.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) October 2, 2012
With all of this going nowhere, the first batch of regular-season games are likely to get cancelled within the next 48 hours. The first night of the season is slated for Oct. 11, which pretty clearly won't be happening.
In the meantime, there's always the KHL.