NHL News

Fehr & Bettman: More Bargaining, Less Politicking

[Photo via Edmonton Journal]

[Photo via Edmonton Journal]

ESPN published an article Saturday afternoon that once again exacerbated the ongoing battle between NHLPA chief Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.  Fehr said that the owners and the players were “very close” to a new collective bargaining agreement on during negotiations on Thursday to end the now three-month lockout.  He also said that talks are much further ahead than they’ve ever been.  Meanwhile, as has been the story with the much-maligned Bettman throughout the lockout, he vehemently disputed that claim.

This kind of petty politicking has defined why the NHL has now had three lockouts in less than 20 years and should be extremely irritating to any hockey fan.  Fehr is disillusioning himself and pandering to the desperate fans by providing a false hope of how close the owners and the players are to agreeing to a deal while Bettman is too busy just trying to combat the NHLPA just to make himself look stronger in the eyes of the owners whose enormous profits he’s trying to save.

The reality is that the two sides are not too far from an agreement.  As of this past week, there is a tentative agreement on a pension plan to be funded by the players, and an agreed 50-50 split of revenue between the owners and the players.  The two big issues that need to get resolved are the “Make Whole” provision, a protection plan to cover player salary reduction in dropping the players revenue share from 57 percent to 50 percent in Year 1 of a new CBA, and reducing the length of player contracts in order to avoid salary cap loopholes.  Once those two things are finalized, the dominoes of a new CBA should fall into place pretty quickly.

Negotiations should be about two sides working together in order to make sure that they are both satisfied.  Instead, the two sides are worried about focusing on their own objectives and just trying to combat one another.  In fact, there are no more talks scheduled.  If Fehr and Bettman actually got back to the negotiating table instead of uselessly politicking, progress could actually be made.  However, if this trend continues, as fans went through in 2004-05, there will be no hockey.

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