For those who thought sanity would prevail and there’s no chance that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association would actually halt the positive on- and off-ice momentum of this league, well, you were sadly mistaken.

By what I’m guessing is Wednesday, the NHL will announce that the regular-season, which was supposed to begin Oct. 11, won’t start on time. After three days of meetings last weekend to talk about peripheral issues (in other words, not a single thing that could possibly stop the NHL’s second lockout in eight years), today’s meeting to discuss the definition of hockey-related revenue lasted less than two hours and ended with no scheduled future meeting and a league executive saying “no progress” was made.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr reportedly told media members camped out in New York that conversations may continue later this week in Toronto and that he and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman may speak tonight or Wednesday, but make no mistake, this lockout isn’t close to ending, is at its boiling point and will cost the league, its players and the fans (at the very least) the start to the season.
“Today wasn’t overly encouraging, that’s for sure,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “It goes back to us really tackling the main issues that are at issue in this negotiation and seeing if we have some traction toward a middle ground. We’re looking for a long-term deal that is fair for the players and fair for the teams and good for the fans. We need a negotiating partner to get there.”
The league maintains that the NHLPA has never actually officially made a counterproposal to the NHL’s initial July 13 proposal and has never moved “a buck” toward the owners since making an alternate proposal Aug. 14.
The union maintains, as Fehr said today, “It’s clear that the players have made substantial moves towards the owners and the owners have made substantial moves away from the players.”
The NHL has actually made three proposals and have inched closer to what most feel is an intended 50-50 split after starting off July 13 by offering the players a 43 percent share.
Daly says, “Unless … they show some willingness to compromise, I’m not sure how we get this done.”
Down in St. Louis Park today, the locked-out Minnesota-based players continued skating and understand the reality that the season won’t begin as scheduled.
“It’s depressing,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “I think everyone saw it coming, but once it actually happens, it’s unfortunate. It’s terrible for the game. There’s no other way to put it. It’s bad for the game. It’s unfortunate for the fans. It’s brutal.”
Asked how long this could go considering both sides have shown no willingness to bridge the gap, Parise said, “You hope it doesn’t go too long, but it’s tough to grasp when you’ve got a guy in Gary Bettman bragging every year that we’re making ‘record revenue, record revenue, record this,’ and all of a sudden they want to take a quarter of what you’ve made away. That doesn’t make sense to anybody. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.”
I do have an email into the league to see if Bettman wants to respond to that or offer up what he feels are the salary reduction numbers in the league’s most recent proposal last month. I haven’t heard back yet.
In the final year of the last CBA, players received 57 percent of the $3.3 billion revenue, the owners 43 percent. In the NHL’s last proposal, the NHL proposed a six-year CBA that dropped the player share to 49 percent in Year One, then 48 in Year Two, and ultimately down to 47 in the final four years.
57 to 47 is roughly a 17.5 percent paycut, although that doesn’t take into account revenue growth. And both the NHL and NHLPA are working off completely different assumptions there, with Bettman saying last month, the union’s “inflated” number “far exceeds what is realistic.” He says the union is assuming continued 7.1 percent annual growth, which includes the $200 million the league gets annually from NBC and last year’s influx in revenue because Atlanta moved to Winnipeg.
In other words, Bettman claims you can’t use that number again because that revenue won’t continue to grow.
Regardless, as Parise alluded and the union has said countless times, the players believe the owners should honor and be responsible for the contracts they agreed to with the players and that salary reductions for players are a complete non-starter with the union.
The league has not gotten off the paycut wagon thus far, so I just don’t see how this bridge will gap.
I talked to a number of players down in St. Louis Park this morning about the lockout, and you can hear from guys like Parise, Ryan Suter, Kyle Brodziak and Tom Gilbert more in Wednesday’s paper.
In other Wild smatterings:
-- Pierre Marc Bouchard is in town, has been golfing and skating and starting to feel more like the pre-concussed Bouchard or the one that didn’t miss the second half last season. He puts his health at 95 percent.
“I’m pretty close to being able to do a little more,” he said. “I want to make sure this one is 110 percent. The good thing is I’m able to work out at a good pace and skate at a good pace. Right now it’s just a question of just being able to get rid of just those little symptoms that come back once in awhile.”
Because Bouchard was not cleared to play at the season-ending physical, he is technically not locked out. He has access to the Wild doctors, trainers and fitness facilities. He said he’ll go see Wild trainer Don Fuller on Wednesday and get in a workout at the X.
If he’s not cleared to play by Oct. 11, Bouchard is entitled to his $4.3 million salary.
-- Parise said with things looking bleak in talks between the NHL and NHLPA, he’s going to have to consider pulling the trigger on playing in Switzerland. Nate Prosser has an opportunity in Europe as well. Others say they plan to stay around here for awhile. It’s been reported that Mikko Koivu has his contract done with Turku, the team he partially owns in his hometown in Finland, but Koivu said today that is untrue and he hasn’t signed anywhere “yet.” Jared Spurgeon has played one game in Switzerland so far.
-- Suter was in town to skate with the guys for the first time today because he’s moving into his new home here in the Twin Cities. But Suter will likely return to Madison, where he skates, on Thursday.
-- Koivu, Bouchard, Josh Harding and Stephane Veilleux went to the Packer game at Lambeau Sunday.
-- Matt Kassian, if there’s an NHL season this year, will switch from 28 to 42. He joked that those fans who possess Kassian No. 28 jerseys “now have vintage jerseys.”
He said he gave Zenon Konopka No. 28 because he’s the more veteran of the two players and that 42 used to be his number in Houston anyway. A lot of players will sell jersey numbers to newcomers. Kassian said the only thing he’s asked Konopka to do is replace all the No. 28 Kassian jerseys his family has bought with No. 42’s, which Konopka’s agreed to.

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