The NHL and the players' association appeared headed toward a
lockout when talks broke off Thursday after the union's first new
proposal in nearly a year.
As promised, the NHLPA offered a system that didn't include the
salary-cap structure it said the league is demanding. The proposal
was emphatically rejected by owners during a four-hour session in
That left Ted Saskin, the NHLPA's senior director, resigned to
the fact that a lockout was likely to be imposed by owners when the
current collective bargaining agreement expires next Wednesday.
"It certainly looks that way," Saskin said. "By making their
one issue the one thing we won't talk about, it appears clear their
Not since negotiating began last Oct. 1 had the union put forth
a new plan. But with time running short following 20 hours of
sidestepping discussions of specific team management, the union
proposed a system built around a luxury tax and revenue sharing.
The plan included a 5 percent rollback on current contracts, an
idea that was in the union's original plan in October and one it
says will create $100 million in savings.
Also in the package was a luxury tax framework that would target
the spending of specific teams, and a revenue-sharing system that
differed from the players' association initial proposal but was
more closely aligned to recent NHL offers.
Players also put forth changes to the entry level system they
say will generate $60 million in savings to clubs.
But Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, claimed the
proposal was merely "window dressing."
Daly said that not only didn't it address the problems facing
the 30 NHL clubs, it wasn't even as good as the offer made by
players in October.
"We don't feel today it was anything other than a
pre-orchestrated move to not make a meaningful proposal," Daly
said. "They believe their best deal will be negotiated in a work
stoppage situation and that's unfortunate for our sport."
Saskin said owners want the lockout because that is the only way
they have a chance of getting a salary cap.
Now, no new talks are scheduled, which almost assures that
training camps won't open on time this month.
"It is clear the owners remain stuck at trying to get a salary
cap," said Vancouver center Trevor Linden, the president of the
players' executive committee. "At some point the owners need to
understand the players will never accept a salary cap or any system
arbitrarily linking payroll to league revenues.
"Our proposal was the best chance we saw to save the hockey
It is likely that the season will officially be put in peril
next week when the NHL Board of Governors meet in New York.
This lockout could prove worse than the one that lasted 103 days
and cut the 1994-95 season nearly in half. Owners have been
preparing for that possibility the last several years and have
built a $300 million war chest.
This latest fruitless negotiating session included more
representatives from both sides for the first time since October.
In addition to NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow, Saskin and
Linden, the rest of the union's executive committee -- including
players Bob Boughner, Vincent Damphousse, Trent Klatt and Arturs
Irbe were present.
Daniel Alfredsson and Bill Guerin, also committee members,
weren't at the meeting because they are still playing in the World
Cup of Hockey, a tournament that is a joint venture between the NHL
and the players' association.
It concludes Tuesday night in Toronto, and that appears to be
the last hockey involving NHL players that fans will see for some
Daly was joined by commissioner Gary Bettman, and executive
committee members including Calgary Flames part owner Harley
Hotchkiss, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Nashville Predators
owner Craig Leopold, Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos,
Minnesota Wild chairman Bob Naegele, and New Jersey Devils general
manager Lou Lamoriello.
Saskin said Bettman concluded the meeting by saying "we weren't
even talking the same language."
In previous sessions this summer, the NHL proposed six concepts
it is convinced would solve the league's woes. The NHLPA rejected
them all because it says each contained a salary cap.
The union says of the $224 million NHL teams claimed to have
lost last year, $170 million was concentrated on just six teams.
The NHLPA says those losses were not CBA related and doesn't
feel players should have to fix problems that mostly result from
market issues and bad arena situations.