A morning of goodwill turned into an afternoon of continued discord between the NHL and the players’ union Friday, leaving them no closer to ending the labor dispute that led the league to lock players out on Sept. 15 and cancel the exhibition schedule.
NHL Players’ Assn. executive Mathieu Schneider said the sides had made “some headway” during their first session on issues such as player safety, scheduling, and tougher drug testing. However, their considerable differences became apparent following their second session.
Speaking to reporters in New York, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league expects the union to move next and make economic concessions. Steve Fehr, special counsel to the NHLPA, responded by saying, “Bargaining is not pingpong. There are no rules.”
Daly told The Times via email that the NHL is seeking from the players “some movement on their economic proposal. They made an offer on Aug. 14 and haven’t offered a single dollar of compromise” for the first three years of the contract.
“We have made it clear to them — repeatedly — that their offer is unacceptable,” Daly continued. “Unless they are prepared to compromise to reach a fair deal, we will remain a long way from concluding a deal.”
Negotiations are scheduled to continue Saturday. Each day without an agreement makes it more unlikely the season will start as scheduled on Oct. 11.
The NHL’s last proposal reduced players’ share of hockey-related revenues from 57% last season to 49% in the first year and eventually to 47% over six years. The NHLPA has resisted moving below the $1.87 billion players earned last season and has proposed reducing players’ take to as low as 52% of hockey-related revenues.
Friday’s negotiations were the first involving large delegations since a few days before the lockout began. Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr also talked privately.