Players remain committed to NHLPA, Fehr as times get tough

Players remain committed to NHLPA, Fehr as times get tough
November 16, 2012, 8:16 pm
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The assorted NHL skaters practicing together informally in Boston werent exactly doing handstands on Friday morning after being apprised of Gary Bettmans proposed two-week moratorium on CBA talks. The NHLPA obviously isnt going along with a 14-day shutdown on negotiations, so it wont officially happen.

I think we want to talk and they want to shut down talks, said Shawn Thornton. I think that speaks pretty high volumes of who wants to get it done, and who doesnt. Its unfortunate. Its disappointing. Its frustrating. I have every intention of going to Toronto if there were meetings this week, and they never happened. Hopefully they come around and want to negotiate.

Weve been pretty strong thus far and I expect that to continue. There are things that the owners want to take that we have to keep. I was at the meetings in New York and I thought we were a lot closer than we actually are. Im still trying to be optimistic, but theres still a lot of posturing going on. Its way too late in this process to be posturing in my opinion. Im trying to stay positive, but my hope is that we can negotiate in good faith.

On the positive side it appears the make whole provision and the revenue sharing are getting close to deal-worthy, but player contract rights have suddenly become ultra-important to the NHL. So the NHL will make the players sweat it out and see if they buckle.

The mere mention of the moratorium speaks to the leagues flagging desire to hold bargaining sessions before cancelling at least a portion of the NHLs December schedule, and that could happen as soon as next week. The proposed moratorium also seems to be a transparent attempt to exert pressure on the players while testing the union for fractures. If its an effort to see if the players will break bad after missing their fourth paycheck cycle in a couple of weeks, the players arent all that impressed.

Weve already missed three pay checks, said Daniel Paille, Bostons NHLPA player rep and a staple at the local skates in Boston. Is missing a fourth check really going to make a difference at this point? Were committed to this, and to getting a fair deal for all players.

Right now its a mental battle and its frustrating. But as players we realize to need to negotiate certain rights, and the owners should realize that as well. Until both sides come to terms with that there wont be any agreement.

Throughout the two-month lockout process, attacks and accusations have been lobbed at both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr as the tension has heightened. The NHL has ushered in a whisper campaign openly questioning whether Fehr provides all information to his 700 plus NHLPA members, and some of the more excitable PA members have begun calling Bettman an idiot. These kinds of things dont help in a negotiation where the hope is for a solution that will kick-start the 2012-13 season.

Clearly Bettman wouldnt be drawing in an 8 million per year salary while running a 3 billion industry if he wasnt smart, clever and perhaps even Machiavellian and its just as clear to the players that going after the Fehr brothers is equally unproductive. The lines of communication in the NHLPA have never been better, and players have largely been allowed to vent frustrations in the proper forum.

Those demonizing Fehr as some kind of NHLPA pied piper with a bunch of unwitting followers is pretty far from reality.

Weve made a proposal about the back-diving contracts. Weve made a proposal on not capping the minor league guys. Were trying to make things work, but the deal isnt good enough yet, said Thornton. I was in the room when Don Fehr was trying to get a deal done. I cant give too much away, but Ive been on the inside and listened to him talk to the negotiating committee, the experts on the NHLPA staff about revenue sharing and player contract rights.

Ive heard Fehr say to people thats not good enough, we have to move these numbers if we want to get a deal done. At the end of the day Fehr wants to get a deal done. He wants to get a deal done. I dont know if I can say the same about the other side.

So the NHL players continue to wait while the lockout rages on, and continue to wonder when far too many harsh words will be replaced by feel-good hockey games.