NHL labor talks break off

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman leaves after speaking to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman leaves after speaking to reporters after NHL labor talks in Toronto. (Aug. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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The prospect of starting the 2012-13 NHL season on time next month dimmed significantly Friday. Negotiations between the league and the players association on a new collective-bargaining agreement broke off, and no further talks were scheduled.

"For talks to resume, somebody will have to say something new," commissioner Gary Bettman said after a 90-minute session in Manhattan that ended in a stalemate on economic structure and philosophy.

The existing CBA expires Sept. 15. Bettman has said the league, which posted more than $3 billion in revenue last season, will not operate under the current CBA and players will be locked out.

"Once we get past Sept. 15, the dynamic changes," he said. "The damage to the business changes the dynamic of the negotiation. I think it gets more difficult than easier." Training camps are scheduled to open Sept. 21; opening night is Oct. 11.

On Tuesday, the league offered a six-year deal with a three-year phase-in of sharing hockey-related revenues that Bettman said amounted to $460 million less over the life of the deal than the NHL's first asking figure.

The players, who have been receiving 57 percent of HRR, proposed a four-year deal, with limited salary growth the first three years, a concession, and then a "snapback" to the 57 percent in the fourth year. Union executive director Donald Fehr said the union offered Friday to take less than 57 percent in the fourth year.

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It also proposed an industry growth fund of $100 million to provide revenue-sharing money for financially strapped clubs. The league has its own revenue-sharing formula, which it says it will expand.

Friday, the NHL expected a counterproposal to its plan, but Bettman believes the union stood by its offer, except for suggesting alternatives to the "snapback."

"In effect, we got stonewalled today," Bettman said. "They weren't moving at all."

Fehr said: "We thought that if we can find agreement on a fourth year, that might pave the way for further discussion. Unfortunately, that proposal [from the players Friday] did not bear fruit."

"They say if players are not prepared to take an immediate reduction in their share, they see no point in responding. We thought being willing to take less than 57 percent in a fourth year was meaningful. At this point, talks are recessed unless the NHL is prepared to do so."

Bettman said Fehr's contention that the league asked for the hiatus was "inaccurate" and argued that "there seems to be no rush by the union to make a deal."

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