Fehr, Bettman have foundation for deal: HNIC commentators

Despite the disappointment and despair felt by hockey fans with the lack of progress on a new collective bargaining agreement, Hockey Night in Canada commentators saw a glimmer of hope after watching this week's events unfold.
Although both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, left, and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr took firm stances this week, they did find common ground on at least one major issue for a new collective bargaining agreement. (The Canadian Press)

Despite the disappointment and despair felt by hockey fans with the lack of progress on a new collective bargaining agreement, Hockey Night in Canada commentators saw a glimmer of hope after watching this week's events unfold.

Here’s what they had to say:  

Don Cherry via Twitter:

"I figure Jan. 1st we’ll be back. I honestly think the NHL should have taken more time to study player proposals. It would have been better from a PR side but I guess they look at it and said, 'Are you kidding?'"

Jim Hughson:

"I think that despite what happened yesterday and all of the negative rhetoric and the collective long faces, I think they are a heck of a lot closer now than they have been at any time. Despite what Gary Bettman says, that they aren’t speaking the same language, I think for the first time in a while they are.

"Yesterday’s grandstanding was very predictable. I don’t think the NHL had any intention on making a settlement when they arrived in Toronto yesterday by the way they dealt with it. It reminded me of one of those boxing press conferences three days before the fight in Vegas — where both sides bring their heavyweights and they have the bouncers standing around and they are spitting vitriol at each other for 20 minutes and then they walk away, slap their hands together and say, 'Well, that went really well, didn’t it?' The real fight happens a couple of days later and a decision is made.

"In this case, the grandstanding was yesterday, and nowthe back-channeling should start and I wouldn’t be surprised if even already today the communication lines are open. Because, you know, yesterday both Fehr and Bettman were very quick to say — amongst all of the things they said — that communication lines were still open."

Mark Lee:

"I think on the surface it was discouraging to see three player proposals immediately dismissed in 10 minutes. But I think both sides are still posturing at this point. And I think the encouraging thing is, there is a deal to be made. 50-50 is now on the table from both sides. And making the players 'whole,' as the owners put it, is on the table. So the players feel if 50-50 is fair, so is honouring their current contracts, so I think the deal to be made is to find a way to do that.

"The tone and the body language were discouraging. I mean, I’ve never seen Bettman that mad around a microphone, and Donald Fehr always seems to be looking like it’s the end of the world.

"I think there’s a way. As gloomy as it looks right now, it looks like there’s some common ground and they’ve got to find a way to bridge it.

"It’s a high-stakes game of poker and Bettman doesn’t really know Donald Fehr. He hasn’t seen his tell at the table.

"I’ve been told by people who have done labour negotiations that if it gets quiet, and they have meetings quietly, that means it’s intense. If they continue to posture in public, that’s a bad sign."

Cassie Campbell-Pascall:

"I just don’t think we’re going to lose the whole season. I know the players want to play, but I also think the owners don’t want to lose a season. I think that’s a big issue for them. They understand the momentum that’s gone on down south. [The owners] know they can’t lose an entire season.

"I don’t take much away from what we’re seeing in the press. Everything they allow us to see or hear in the press is negotiating. It’s all part of negotiating. I don’t necessarily think the same things are happening behind closed doors. That’s why I think it’s so hard to predict when the season is going to start because I honestly think the people behind closed doors don’t even know. So I don’t put a lot of trust into the comments I hear from both sides."

Kelly Hrudey:

"Even though I’m a former player, I’m neutral in this scenario. The only thing I will say from the press conferences is that it seems to me that the players’ counter-proposal was fair. When I heard 50-50 and also heard that the owners should honour contracts they signed three and a half months ago — I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

"I’m an optimistic guy. But all of us know that a deal can be had, but a deal can also go south in a hurry too. I’m really concerned with the two guys at the top, because I know they are master negotiators. But I also wonder if they are more concerned with the game of negotiating and that’s what worries me."