Labor feud puts Wild buzz on hold

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2012 - 11:27 AM

Two months after team signed pair of elite players, NHL is on verge of lockout.

The most anticipated season in Minnesota Wild history is in jeopardy.

The National Hockey League is headed toward a lockout for the second time in eight years -- the last one wiped out the entire 2004-05 season -- less than three months after the Wild shook the foundation of the league by signing star players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

If a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by the NHL and the NHL Players' Association by 11 p.m. Saturday, none of the league's 30 teams will function. "Awful timing, it really is," Parise said. "I can't tell you how many people have come up to me in public and said how excited they are for the season. And for that to be in jeopardy is unfortunate. There's a great energy in the state right now for this team."

The Wild is supposed to start training camp next Saturday, play its preseason home opener Sept. 26 and open the regular season opener Oct. 13.

Odds are, none of those will happen.

The sides spoke on the phone Friday but haven't met formally since rejecting each other's proposals Wednesday, meaning a league that generated a record $3.3 billion in revenue last season could be in for a long hiatus.

"Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "I feel terrible about it."

The fight basically comes down to the fact that the players currently take 57 percent of hockey-related revenue and the NHL says it cannot operate the league while receiving only 43 percent.

The league wants players to take pay cuts. The union refuses to take a penny less than the $1.87 billion in player salary it received last season, and wants that number to grow.

"That does require the league to grow revenues, but that's their job," said NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, who headed the Major League Baseball Players' Association for 23 years and was part of five work stoppages in 32 years there.

Fehr advocates "shared sacrifice." He wants teams to cut other expenses and also wants a system for the richer teams to help the poorer ones through more innovative revenue sharing than the $195 million the NHL has proposed.

Money issues

The league claims more than half the teams are losing money and the league isn't profitable as a whole.

"For whatever reason, [lockouts] seem to be what [Bettman] likes to do," said Parise, saying it's time to address why small-market teams still struggle after losing a season for the expiring CBA. "I feel seven years down the road, [their proposal] isn't addressing the problem and we're going to be in the exact same spot."

Fehr, who didn't run the union during the 2004-05 lockout, feels the players made all the concessions when the NHL won its fight then for a salary cap, which Bettman said at the time would result in "economic stability for our franchises."

Bettman noted each team's salary-cap ceiling has risen from $39 million to $70.2 million since that lockout and that the average NHL salary has risen from $1.45 million to $2.55 million.

"We believe 57 percent [of revenue] is too much," said Bettman, noting that the NBA and NFL recently went through lockouts and "their players have recognized in these economic times that there was a need to retrench."

Over the NBA's new 10-year CBA, players receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenue. Over the NFL's new 10-year CBA, players receive between 47 and 48.5 percent.

Bettman is proposing a 49 percent player share in year one, 48 percent in year two and 47 percent in the final four years of a six-year CBA. The players propose receiving between 54.3 percent and 52.3 over five years, assuming continued 7.1 percent annual revenue growth for the league, which Bettman says "far exceeds what is realistic."

The Wild side

Wild owner Craig Leipold has not been permitted to comment, under NHL bylaws.

Leipold is on Bettman's negotiating committee. In April, Leipold said the Wild, for the fourth year in a row, didn't make money, "and that's one reason we need to fix our system."

But on July 4, the Wild signed Parise and Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million, lockout-protected deals (each was paid $10 million signing bonuses last month). The contracts were front-loaded to drop the annual cap figure to $7.53 million.

The NHL is trying to get rid of those types of contracts in the next CBA.

Nine days after Parise and Suter signed, the NHL made its first proposal, which included dropping the players' share of revenue from 57 percent to 43, asking for five-year maximum contracts, moving free agency from seven years of service to 10, and getting rid of salary arbitration.

"Embarrassing," Parise said. "It set the tone. It was a joke."

If the Wild didn't sign Parise and Suter to those contracts, another team would have, but Leipold still was accused of hypocrisy after "crying poor" in April.

His explanation in July: "We've been losing money and the way we were going, we were going to have another year of 'keep losing more money and more money and more money.' So if I'm going to make the kind of financial commitment to keep this team and move this forward, I'd rather do it growing it. This is a move to get us out of the hole that we've been digging."

"[But] this shows the system does need to be changed. ... There's a better way to run a business."

The ultimatum

Bettman says the NHL's proposal comes off the table Saturday night because of the damage a lockout will do to revenue.

Public opinion leaned the owners' way in 2004-05. This time, it is in the players' court. Fans feel managers and owners created this mess by handing out super-long, lucrative contracts, one using loopholes in the CBA they crafted to circumvent the very cap they wanted.

Wednesday, the league inched closer to a 50-50 split, drawing some of those fans back.

A work stoppage would halt momentum for a game that has never been better on the ice, and a business that has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion in annual revenue over the past seven years.

Bettman hopes hockey fans will come back in droves when it's over, as they did in 2005. The players stand firmly behind Fehr.

"We've never doubted the player unity," Bettman said. "The players were unified eight years ago. If they weren't unified, we never would have missed an entire season. We've never doubted their unity.

"And they shouldn't doubt ours."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 111 FINAL
Orlando 96
Brooklyn 99 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Portland 105 FINAL
Charlotte 97
Washington 87 FINAL
Cleveland 113
LA Clippers 104 FINAL
Detroit 98
New York 102 FINAL
Dallas 109
Toronto 126 FINAL
Atlanta 115
Milwaukee 103 FINAL
Minnesota 86
Sacramento 89 FINAL
Houston 102
Utah 82 FINAL
Oklahoma City 97
Indiana 100 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Denver 112 FINAL
Phoenix 120
Memphis 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 93
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Washington 2 FINAL(OT)
NY Islanders 3
Philadelphia 2 FINAL
Detroit 5
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
Florida 1
Toronto 3 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Chicago 3 FINAL
Colorado 2
Calgary 2 FINAL
San Jose 0
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
Denver 57 FINAL
Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
Northeastern 54 FINAL
Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
North Florida 72 FINAL
Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 72 FINAL
UAB 43
Davidson 95 FINAL
UCF 69
Albany 75 FINAL
Colgate 71
Longwood 66 FINAL
George Washington 91
Delaware State 76 FINAL
Iona 126
Trinity Baptist 57 FINAL
Jacksonville 69
Cleveland State 33 FINAL
Louisville 45
St Johns 70 FINAL
Minnesota 61
PSU-Harrisburg 42 FINAL
Navy 67
Richmond 72 FINAL
NC State 84
Grambling St 54 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Oakland 78
Campbell 64 FINAL
Ohio State 91
Goucher 43 FINAL
Towson 97
Bryant 47 FINAL
Vermont 73
Miami-Ohio 63 FINAL
Virginia Tech 78
Mount St Marys 49 FINAL
Wake Forest 83
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Yale 82
UMKC 63 FINAL
Youngstown St 66
Canisius 60 FINAL
Cornell 67
Va Military 72 FINAL
West Virginia 103
Lehigh 86 FINAL
DePaul 74
UC Riverside 62 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 66
Morehead State 77 FINAL
Marshall 68
Miss Valley St 52 FINAL
North Texas 67
UNC-Asheville 75 FINAL
South Carolina 89
Tenn Tech 65 FINAL
SE Louisiana 86
Texas Southern 59 FINAL
SMU 72
Radford 50 FINAL
TCU 74
TX-Pan American 48 FINAL
Utah 85
Wayne St-NE 69 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Kansas State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 70
Northern Ill 49 FINAL
Iowa 70
Fla Gulf Coast 45 FINAL
Green Bay 59
Carroll (MT) 52 FINAL
Montana 75
Florida A&M 33 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
Auburn 71 FINAL
Oregon State 69
Eastern Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Utah 64
Stetson 41 FINAL
Wyoming 65
Northern Ky 60 FINAL
Eastern Wash 81
Utah Valley U 60 FINAL
Idaho State 57
Florida 65 FINAL
Georgetown 66
Northwestern 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 61
Georgia 76 FINAL
Gonzaga 88
Cal Poly 52 FINAL
California 72
Utah State 70 FINAL
UC Davis 77
Arizona 61 FINAL
San Diego St 59
Alabama State 68 FINAL
North Dakota 75
Portland State 63 FINAL
CS-Northridge 55
Tulsa 58 FINAL
Oklahoma State 73
Pacific 71 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 62
Missouri State 61 FINAL
Colorado State 76
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Kennesaw St 74 FINAL
Seton Hall 77
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 55
Illinois-Chicago 40 FINAL
Northwestern 61
UT Martin 75 FINAL
Samford 79
Niagara 63 FINAL
Binghamton 52
Radford 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 72
East Tenn St 69 FINAL
Indiana 97
North Dakota 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 52
Marshall 49 FINAL
Cornell 58
Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 54
LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Boise State 59 FINAL
Yale 53
Evansville 39 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 83
(4) Tennessee 63 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
Delaware State 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 73
Bradley 74 FINAL
Columbia 81
Providence 56 FINAL
Dayton 72
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Albany 64 FINAL
Canisius 59
VA Commonwealth 48 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Alabama A&M 44 FINAL
Alabama 75
Colgate 35 FINAL
(22) Georgia 66
Memphis 75 FINAL
Southern Ill 82
Oakland 64 FINAL
(16) Michigan State 79
Utah Valley U 49 FINAL
UC Davis 59
Butler 62 FINAL
BYU 81
TX-Pan American 45 FINAL
(6) Texas 72
McNeese State 27 FINAL
(7) Texas A&M 93
Milwaukee 80 FINAL
Marquette 85
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
TX-Arlington 80
Jackson State 70 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Indiana State 74 FINAL
South Alabama 53
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 60
Iona 49 FINAL
Kansas 90
Fresno Pacific 60 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 82
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close