NEWARK, N.J. - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr confirmed on Wednesday that their sides hope to begin discussions on a new collective agreement in the next few weeks.
This was one of several topics Bettman spoke about in his annual pre-Stanley Cup final state-of-the-union address. Fehr was in attendance to listen to Bettman speak in the bowels of the Prudential Center and afterwards the NHLPA boss held his own Q-and-A session with reporters.
It was ironic that Bettman announced in his session that the league enjoyed record revenues of $3.3-billion US this season. Yet, there is a strong possibility that the 2012-13 NHL season will not begin on time because of prolonged CBA fight.
There has been plenty of speculation that this round of CBA negotiations could produce another owners' lockout just like in the NBA and NFL labour disputes a year ago.
There has been little public sniping between both sides in the buildup, especially compared to 2004-05 when the entire season was cancelled. But Fehr stated that in his experience, the pre-negotiating environment has little to do with the level of acrimony in the talks.
The NHLPA has yet to finalize its player negotiating committee, something that is expected to happen later this month.
In other topics of interest in Bettman's press conference, the NHL commissioner gave updates on the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils ownership situations and Raffi Torres appeal.
General manager get-together
The main matters discussed at the general manager meetings at a mid-Manhattan hotel on Wednesday included:
1. The debate on whether to implement hybrid icing took up most of the meeting. At the GM meetings in March, the group was shown a presentation video on hybrid icing calls from the USHL junior loop and NCAA. When the GMs gathered in New York, they debated the possibility of hybrid icing in the NHL passionately.
The GMs decided that they would like to see it enforced in the AHL next season before proposing a change in the NHL. In March, AHL president Dave Andrews remarked that he didn't see a problem with his board of governors adopting the rule in order to test it out.
The USHL has a hybrid rule that is a mixture of touch and no-touch icing. The linesman has the discretion to stop play if he believes the defensive player will reach the puck first.
If the linesman decides the offensive player has a chance to reach the puck first, he can allow for a race to the puck to continue. The linesman also can side with the defensive player if the race is a tie by the time the players reach the faceoff dots.
2. There is a plan for a group of GMs, coaches, officials, league executives and players to get together this summer - likely in August - to discuss whether the standard of restraining penalties has slipped too much since the 2004-05 lockout or where the group feels this area of the game should go.
3. A radical idea called a travelling penalty in the playoffs was introduced. Under this proposal if a penalty occurs near the end or at the end of a game it would carryover to the next game in the series. This proposal will need more discussion, but it appeared that a few GMs were intrigued by the idea.
4. Bettman provided a brief update on the collective bargaining talks were at with the NHLPA. It was brief because negotiations have yet to commence.
5. Bettman addressed this in his session with reporters, but the GMs were told there was a modest decline in the number of concussions for the first time in three years. There were, however, no numbers released to reporters.
Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis plans to talk to goalie Roberto Luongo about his future later this week. He agreed there was a possibility that Luongo would not be traded ... Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin revealed that he will not have a new coach in place this week, but there is a possibility of an announcement before the NHL entry draft in June. He would not comment on the recent speculation that Bob Hartley will be the new Habs bench boss, but it is widely believed that Hartley, former Montreal and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Michael Therrien as well as Marc Crawford remain the top candidates ... Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini headed to Toronto immediately afterwards, so he could attend the draft prospects combine. The Oilers won the draft lottery last month and for the third straight year will have the first overall selection. Tambellini did not want to get specific about where he was at in his coaching search, other than to say it was progressing ... Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster was not in attendance. So there was no update on his coaching search. Hartley and New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan are considered contenders for the Flames position.
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