Bettman: 'Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal'

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Bettman: 'Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal'

Those that know him best said it was genuine anger in NHL commissioner Gary Bettmans eyes as he delivered a 30-plus-minute diatribe ripping into the NHLPA on Thursday evening at the Westin Hotel in New York City.
Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly rejected the NHLPAs latest offer for an eight-year CBA that included 300 million in make whole money and loosened player contract rights in most areas. But Bettman and Daly both insisted they were willing to die on the hill for a 10-year CBA that limits the term for contracts at five years or seven years for players re-signing with their own team and doesnt allow more than a five percent variance in salary each season.
They added a little insult to the injury of rejecting the deal by simply calling NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and leaving a voice mail message, and then Bettman started the verbal bombing that seemed equal parts angry, distressed and despondent.
The key for all of us is to have a long-term agreement. Thats what the fans deserve, said Bettman. Thats what the game deserves. Thats what the players deserve. Thats what all of the leagues business partners deserve.
The four new owners wanted to push ahead and do something bold. They virtually put a new 100 million on the table to show that they wanted to get the game back and play as soon as possible.
The unions response was shockingly silent, so to speak, in terms of reaction. There was almost no reaction other than thank you, well take the 100 million. The owners were beside themselves. Some of them I had never seen that emotional. They said they dont know what happened, but this process is over. Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal.
Bettman went on to illustrate a negotiation where they clearly identified three things from the players: a 10-year CBA that would guarantee labor peace for a significant portion of time, a five-year term limit on contract for players that protect GMs from themselves and the five percent variance limit for year-to-year salaries that would eliminate the back-diving contracts. The NHL was giving in certain areas to get those necessary CBA features, according to Bettman, and was looking for a simple yes or no answer on Thursday.
Instead they got an NHLPA offer that moved partially toward the league, and that caused steam to start pouring out of Bettmans ears. Also unimpressed were the four moderate owners from Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay that got involved with negotiations this week.
We have all spent too much time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal, said Pittsburgh co-owner Ron Burkle. Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didnt hold back.
We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach. We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and 'non-negotiable' decision which is their right, to end the playerowner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months. I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.
Bettman basically stated that the 300 million in make whole money is off the table, any negotiated middle ground from this weeks talks are now off the table, and things could get frosty for a little while.
We are proposing a long term system that will pay the players billions and billions of dollars over the terms of the contract, said Bettman. I am disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight. Were going to have to take a long, deep breath and regroup.
Sometimes you feel like youre chasing your tail in this process. But we so much want to play we went even further than we should have.
If one judges by things like franchise value and monetary power then Toronto Maple Leafs owner Larry Tanenbaum should be one of the biggest power brokers in the NHL, and he sounded 100 percent frustrated after witnessing the process firsthand.
I must admit I was shocked at how things have played out over the last 48 hours, Tanenbaum said. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch.
"The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement. I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it.
Well, everybody believes it now after watching the surreal CBA soap opera play out at the Westin. It has left the NHL still stuck in suspended animation, but perhaps a little closer to an agreement somewhere down the line.
But heres a word of advice for both sides: There is way too much Bettman vs. Fehr pay-per-view action going in these negotiations. Things wont get settled until theres much greater concern about doing whats best for the game.

WNBA: Ogwumike helps Sparks win sixth straight, beat Sun 87-79

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WNBA: Ogwumike helps Sparks win sixth straight, beat Sun 87-79

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Nneka Ogwumike scored 17 of her 21 points in the first half to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Connecticut Sun 87-79 on Tuesday night.

Candace Parker added 14 points, seven rebounds and five blocks for the Sparks (10-3), who have won six straight.

Los Angeles led by six at the half thanks to Ogwumike, who made her first eight shots. The Sparks scored 16 of the first 20 points in the second half to open up a double-digit lead. Riquna Williams, who is filling in for injured guard Essence Carson, spearheaded that burst and finished the game with 13 points.

The Sun (6-7) were down by 19 and got to 68-61 early in the fourth, but could get no closer as Los Angeles scored the next eight points..

Jasmine Thomas led Connecticut with 19 points. Jonquel Jones added 13 points and 17 rebounds.