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NHL lockout: Owners issue thoughts; Leafs' Tanenbaum 'disillusioned'

By Brian Stubits |

NHLLockoutOn Thursday the talks between the NHL and the NHLPA broke down and both Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman took their turns explaining to the media what happened.

Then in an incredibly rare situation, the gag order was lifted on the four owners who were introduced to the process this week and they released their own statements on what happened in the last few days. As you could probably guess, the mood isn't great.

Here is the statement from Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle, who was seen as a moderate who many hoped could bring about a deal.

The idea to put players and owners together in the same room was a refreshing idea. Commissioner Bettman should be thanked for proposing it and the Fehrs should be thanked for agreeing to it.

The players came with a strong desire to get back to playing hockey. They were professional and did a good job of expressing their concerns and listening to ours.

We wanted to move quickly and decisively. We have all spent too much time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal. Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didn't hold back.

We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. It's not what they do and they wanted us to know they were committed. We understood and appreciated their situation. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach.

We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and "non-negotiable" decision -- which is their right, to end the player/owner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months.

I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried to reach a deal.

I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.

The CEO of the Winnipeg Jets, Mark Chipman, was also involved in the process despite the fact that he's only been an owner of an NHL team for a little more than a year. Here is what he had to say.

"I'd like to thank the NHL for giving me the opportunity to participate in this very important process.

I came here optimistic that we could find a solution. That sense of optimism grew after our first few sessions, including the small group discussions late last night.

Regrettably, we have been unable to close the divide on some critical issues that we feel are essential to the immediate and long-term health of our game.

While I sense there are some members of the players association that understand our perspective on these issues, clearly there are many that don't.

I am deeply disappointed that we were unable to bring this extremely unfortunate situation to a successful conclusion and I wish to apologize to our fans and sponsors for letting them down."

Next up on the statement list was Larry Tanenbaum, the CEO of the richest team in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was believed that he, like Burkle, was a moderate who might be able to help broker a deal. Perhaps his words are the strongest.

"I was pleased to be asked to join the Player/Owner negotiation sessions. I had hoped that my perspective both as a businessman and as one of the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be helpful to the process. Like all other teams, this work stoppage has hurt our fans, our employees and our business. Neither the owners nor the players will ever recover the losses incurred with this work stoppage.

I understand how important it is to have a strong league and 30 healthy teams. I must admit that I was shocked at how things have played out over the last 48 hours. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch. The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement.

I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it. Like all hockey fans, I am hopeful this situation can be resolved as soon as possible. I miss our game."

Last but not least there was the statement from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

"After working this week with our players toward what we hoped would be a new agreement, owners presented a proposal we believed would benefit those great players, ownership, and, ultimately, our fans for many years to come. While trust was built and progress was made along the way, unfortunately, our proposal was rejected by the Union's leadership. My love for the game is only superseded by my commitment to our fans and I hold out hope we can soon join with our players and return the game back to its rightful place on the ice."

Soak that up for all it's worth -- which isn't a lot, mind you. It's probably the last time we'll hear from owners in a long while, until this lockout is ended.

It's pretty clear from this -- if it needed to be made any clearer after Gary Bettman spoke -- that the NHL isn't happy one bit right now that it let the owners loose with statements. They have kept their mouths shut this whole time but let them talk tonight? It's no coincidence.

More from Eye on Hockey

NHL rejects latest offer from union, calls it "unacceptable"
Gary Bettman "disappointed beyond belief"

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