In the latest edition of our five questions series, we tackle the issues of what's next for the NHLPA, the 50-50 revenue split, and the details about the NHL's latest proposal.
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Why can't the players accept a 50-50 deal? It makes so much sense.
It certainly does make sense that they cut a deal that goes down the middle, but there are some serious issues with that. First, what is it that makes up the pot that is being split? The players have one interpretation of that, the owners have another. It will take much conversation to solve that one. Another issue is how quickly they get to that split. In the last agreement the players were getting 57 per cent. The proposals they made today would get them to a 50/50 split, but that would not happen on Day One of the agreement. The players say they gave up millions of dollars in the last negotiations and they don't want to go down that path again.
How can these guys meet for only an hour or so?
Bargaining is a strange process. Only the people in the room know exactly what happened at Thursday's session, but Donald Fehr did talk about it in his media conference. He said the NHLPA put forward two proposals along with some numbers to illustrate what they meant. Fehr said the players had a third suggestion that was presented that was not accompanied by as much information as the other two ideas. He said this was an idea that they came up with just before the meeting so he did not have a lot of supporting numbers. The NHL then took a break, which does happen in situations like this, to discuss what had been put forward. When negotiations are going well there is usually a series of questions and answers so that both sides understand what is meant, in other words exploratory talks. Fehr said the representatives of the league returned from a 15-minute meeting and rejected the proposals. The result? A short meeting.
Why did the NHLPA bring in players like Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby?
Fehr has said all along that he wants the players involved in this process as much as possible. The players have a private website where information is constantly shared. At each bargaining session there have been players involved in the conversation. On Thursday the players' union was probably trying to make a point that the players are united. Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby are obviously two of the most respected players in the league and their presence illustrates that the union leaders have support of the members.
Is the season now done?
That is certainly not the case, although the news from Thursday is not good. The season will not be over until the league makes a public declaration that it is over. Mr. Bettman said today that he still has some hope that a full 82 game schedule is possible. Obviously both parties would have to change their positions quickly, and that doesn't look like it will happen.
What would these negotiations look like if the two sides were not led by Bettman and Fehr?
That is impossible to answer. They are both veterans of the process with big time reputations for being tough negotiators. Up until recently they have refrained from making aggressive comments about the other side. That changed in the last week. Would the players have a different view without Fehr as the leader? Hard to say. Would the owners have a different position? Again it is hard to say. It really doesn't matter, these guys are the leaders and they're the ones calling the shots.