It's not a Happy Thanksgiving for the NHL, its players, or its fans as the lengthy lockout continues, and with little progress in negotiations Wednesday, a slate of games in December could be canceled soon.
A day that began with a six-page CBA proposal from the union ended with commissioner Gary Bettman declaring that while there was some movement, the sides remain far apart. No further talks were scheduled for Friday.
After being asked by the league on Monday to offer a comprehensive proposal, the union presented its most detailed blueprint yet: A five-year deal that comes with a percentage share of revenues rather than real dollars, with a 50-50 revenue split and "make-whole" or transition payments over the first four years of $393 million. The league had proposed $211 million. The $393 million, plus the 50-50, averages about 52 percent per year over all five years for the players. The union rejected the league's proposal on extending free- agent eligibility and contract limits that included some givebacks.
After the afternoon session, which lasted less than two hours, the union's executive director, Donald Fehr, said there was "no reciprocity" from the league on major points. "We made an enormous move in the owners' direction to try to end it. At least as of today, that hasn't been successful." The response, he said, was essentially, "Thanks, but no thanks."
The league has offered a seven-year deal, Bettman said, under which the players would earn between $12 billion and $14 billion. Some owners want him to take that off the table. "We went through their proposal point by point, we talked about things we were agreeable with . . . ," he said. "There was movement on some issues by the players association and that was appreciated, but we're still far apart."
Bettman also said that he would have to look at the prospect of cancelling games "on a daily basis." At risk now are several weeks of games starting Dec. 1 and the Jan. 27 All-Star Game in Columbus. He said the league was losing $18 million to $20 million a day and the players were losing $8 million to $10 million a day.
"It's frustrating and disappointing for everybody,' he said. "We made what was our best offer [in October] in order to save an 82-game season, and any expectation that it will get better is not realistic." The players, he said, also had some culpability in dragging out the stalemate.