NHL frustrated, upset with union leader

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 7:43 AM

The NHL believes union head Donald Fehr didn't portray its proposal accurately to players.

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NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr

Photo: Richard Drew, Associated Press

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The fourth consecutive day of meetings ended quickly between the NHL and NHL Players' Association on Friday night, and the two sides are still far apart on a new collective bargaining agreement.

After the owners were left waiting for the Fehr brothers -- Donald and Steve -- for most of the day, the two sides broke apart on shaky terms after about 90 minutes. Don Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, held a conference call with players afterward. The union hierarchy will meet internally Saturday before determining the next step.

"We'll come to grips with where we are and try and figure out what to do next," Fehr told reporters in New York. "I don't know what will happen next."

Friday's breakup came after the NHL became frustrated with a lack of traction this week after the league proposed a 50/50 split in revenues with players. In addition, each contract would be honored using a "make whole" provision, according to league sources, something the NHL believed would be the type of breakthrough that could lead toward the eventual end of the lockout.

The league promised to guarantee players their $1.883 billion share (their 57 percent share of last season's revenues). To do that, players would have their 12.3 percent salary reductions deferred for a maximum of three years, sources said.

The league would pay out two lump sums totaling $211 million plus 2 percent interest, and by Year 3, the players would be "made whole" as long as revenues grow 5 percent, said sources.

Fehr disputed that Friday night, saying by the union's math, players would "not be receiving the full value of their contracts."

Word of the league proposal trickled out because the NHL didn't believe Fehr portrayed its 50/50 proposal fully in a Thursday night memo sent to 725 players. That memo was leaked to the media Friday and thus got back to the league and its owners.

In the memo, Fehr didn't provide details of the league's "make whole" 50/50 offer, said a "significant gap remains," said revenue sharing "needs considerable work" and that the NHL's proposed contractual changes "must be agreed to."

Fehr said Friday night that in memos, you "necessarily have to summarize," and that he's routinely transparent with his constituents. All players are invited to any bargaining session on the union's dime, and dozens have sat in on these meetings with the league, including this week.

The New York Post reported the union is seeking full 2012-13 salaries even in a shortened season and regardless of league revenues, revenues that will surely fall because of the lockout.

However, Fehr said the union was trying to put a structure in place with the NHL before "dealing with the effects of the lockout."

Games have been canceled through Nov. 30, meaning there is still time to reach a deal and start by Dec. 1. But the clock is ticking, damage to revenues and the league's reputation is being done, and as both Commissioner Gary Bettman and Fehr said, "There's still a lot of work to do."

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