Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Today's Gary Bettman excerpts as lockout approaches

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: September 13, 2012 - 4:35 PM
As I did with NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Donald Fehr on the previous blog, here are some excerpts of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s press conference following today’s Board of Governors meeting in New York.
 
For the Wild, owner Craig Leipold, who is on the negotiating committee, and General Manager Chuck Fletcher attended.
 
Bettman had the authority already to lock out the players if no collective bargaining agreement can be reached by 11 p.m. CT Saturday, but he asked for a show of hands to see who supported such an action after today’s update.
 
Boston Bruins Jeremy Jacobs made a motion that there be another vote. It was seconded. According to Bettman, there was a unanimous agreement from the 30 teams that there will be a lockout Saturday night if no new CBA is reached.
 
And make no mistake, there won’t be, a lockout will follow and it will be a long one.
 
Bettman’s excerpts from today, and there is some good stuff here:
 
--Bettman clarified that the NHL’s proposal yesterday wasn’t take it or leave it. What the league said was its proposal wouldn’t be on the table if a lockout begins, it could be negotiated off of and that the NHLPA has also told the league its latest proposal is off the table once a lockout starts.
 
--No change in the timeline; board was given a thorough “soup to nuts” overview of everything that’s happened in negotiations and a lockout will begin Saturday night without a new CBA.
 
--“We believe 57% of hockey related revenue (HRR) is too much. Two other leagues, the NBA and NFL, their players have recognized in these economic times that there was a need to retrench. Under our most recent proposal, player share gets reduced in the first year in the 9% range, second year in the 7% range, third year in the 4% range. These are amounts that are perfectly consistent with what the players experienced during the seven years of this CBA when there has been an escrow reduction to their contracts five out of seven times, once for 12%. If you use the player association projections of revenues going forward, … the impact in terms of reducing players share is 7.1%, 4 percent in the second year and the third year we’re all caught up.”
 
--Bettman says they basically made the same offer three times in a row. “They haven’t budged. … We’ve moved fairly dramatically in an attempt to engage in getting negotiations going and we’ve been rebuffed in every turn.” The NHL asked for a 43 percent player share in their first proposal, is now at 49 percent in Year One, going down to 47. Bettman noted that the NBA’s first proposal was 40.5 percent (now 50-50 agreement) and NFL’s first was 45 (now 53-47 in favor of owners). He says 43 percent to the owners is not a fair balance for what the league has to pay out in terms of costs. And he says if you think the 43 percent the owners offered the players initially is unfair, “remember that we have been getting 43 percent to operate the league and pay all the expenses.”
 
--“Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary and wages than what we’re proposing to do” in a new CBA.
 
--“There seems to be this notion that because we agreed to 54 escalating to 57 percent seven years ago that that’s a perpetual entitlement. There’s a reason that this CBA had a term (players could have terminated it after four, they extended it after six). That doesn’t mean that the league has to be prepared to continue to do the same thing. We honored what we were obligated to do. I don’t expect any awards for that. That was our obligation both legally and morally. That doesn’t mean we have any responsibility to do that going forward.”
 
--Bettman essentially accused the PA of not being interested for some reason of getting a deal done (my opinion would be that a lockout will allow Fehr to go after the cap), showing no urgency. Went to them more than a year ago that it wanted to terminate the CBA, told to come back at All-Star Game, then playoffs, then Stanley Cup Final. Still no dice. Finally met June 29, didn’t get a proposal until Aug. 14 – a month from CBA expiration. “It looks like there was no urgency on the PA to engage or get anything done. … I can’t and I won’t speculate as to why that might be their intention.” He’s inferring what I inferred, though. He said if the PA came after the cap, one a season was lost to get in 2004-05, it would not be “positive development in these negotiations. … The system has given unprecedented competitive balance with 29 teams making the playoffs in the last seven years, seven different Cup champions, has enabled us to grow revenues from $2.1 to $3.3 billion. Not only would it not be constructive, I think it would defy logic as to why would somebody would want to take that kind of system off the table.” So, buckle up folks because as I mentioned on the previous blog, I feel Fehr is going to go after that, especially when he incessantly says baseball – the league he fought to not get a cap and succeeded – is the only sport with labor peace for a “decade and a half.”
 
--As I’ve mentioned many times, Bettman reiterated that bylaws won’t permit the Leipolds of the world (the Board) to speak for themselves. Only Bettman and Bill Daly can speak on collective bargaining.
 
--Bettman said he’s waiting for the NHLPA hasn’t given a response to the league’s proposal, so it’s on them if they want to meet again before Saturday.
 
--Bettman says when the NHLPA talks about percentages, it’s assumptions and speculations based on assumption of league growth. So they’re asking for a guarantee of dollars based on assuming growth, “which far exceeds what is realistic. … The numbers they are using is inflated,” says it includes the increase in the Canadian dollar, longtime special events such as the impact of the U.S. TV contract with NBC, the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg, etc.
 
--“Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do. This is what I do. This is what my life is about in terms of how I spend most of my waking hours. This is really hard. … It’s very hard and I feel terrible about it.” (I think a few fans would disagree with that sentiment).
 
--“I hope to see you all soon and I hope it’s with better news the next time.”
 
It won’t be.

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