Talks frozen, NHL season becoming a long shot
Posted December 7, 2012
Updated December 8, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — The NHL lockout seemed to be taking a turn for the positive this week, players and owners had dialogue and issues were reportedly being bridged.
What a difference 24 hours makes in these high-dollar negotiations.
NHLPA chief Donald Fehr made the announcement that the two sides were close, only a few details remained from getting the season underway. Evidently the NHL did not share in the optimism. The league felt they had made enough concessions and wanted concrete answers to three 'yes' or 'no' questions, not a counter-offer.
The length of the collective bargaining agreement that the league wants is 10 years, the players countered with eight.
Also at issue is a five-year contract term limit, meaning no more deals that stretch for a decade. Teams will not be able to sign a player from outside the organization to a contract longer than five years and can only extend their players to a seven-year deal.
Reports do indicate that the new transition rules, like buyouts and arbitration, are no longer a sticking point after the talks Tuesday and Wednesday.
When Fehr stepped to the podium Thursday to say that a deal is right around the corner, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was leaving a voicemail to the contrary. Bettman and the league pulled their offer and in doing so, ripped out the hearts of fans that thought a season was coming for Christmas.
This isn’t meant to paint Bettman as the bad guy; he does that well enough on his own. Both sides shoulder blame for this painfully long root canal of the CBA.
Fehr keeps trying to get the best deal possible for the players - trying to take one more inch after the owners group feels they have given back miles from the original proposal. The league is growing tired of having to go back to the negotiating table over the next issue Fehr and company want to bring up.
Even after this dire turn, I’m not so sure we were even that close to a deal Thursday. It appears that the ‘take it or no season’ ultimatum is close to being put in play by the NHL even if the league didn’t cancel the 2004-05 season until February of that go round. This time the negotiations seem to be filled with far more bile than the one that wiped out an entire year eight moons ago.
Let’s pretend Thursday didn’t happen and both sides are going to sit down and try to get a deal done soon and we have a happy holiday.
What is a realistic scenario for getting the game on the ice?
The new CBA is ratified before New Year’s Eve, a 60-game season that stretches from January to April with no cross-conference play is possible and basically it is a playoff from the jump. Each team gets 30 home and away dates and we get a full playoff slate.
If this drags past Jan. 1, a slate of 48 games with no conference mingling and a regular post-season is the probable solution, similar to what the league did in 1994-95.
Back to the real world, after Thursday night it would seem to be a long shot to see one NHL game this year. But it is the holiday season, so maybe a miracle can happen.