Haggerty: Optimism high for CBA talks

Haggerty: Optimism high for CBA talks
June 27, 2012, 11:25 pm
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With nothing left on the NHL agenda aside from the annual shopping spree beginning with the open of free agency on July 1, the CBA negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA on a new labor deal after finally set to begin.
At the end of three days worth of meetings with the NHLPA Executive Board at Chicagos Peninsula Hotel, NHLPA Exec Director Donald Fehr announced the creation of an NHLPA Negotiating Committee consisting of 31 players.
Fehr also put forth a preliminary timetable for the first few rounds of discussions with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that should commence prior to free agency.
The labor talks will start later this week between Fehr and Bettman, and both sides start optimistic and full of hope.
Other than that, the union head was fairly non-specific about everything entailing the CBA process, and unwilling to delve into numbers and philosophies until hes broken bread with Bettman.
Fehr spoke as he had Jon Tavares and Jonathan Toews two of the young faces of the NHL immediately behind him along with a number of other NHL players encircled around the NHLPA Director.
It was an impressive show of player solidarity as Fehr stressed hope the CBA negotiations wont affect a National Hockey League record of 3.3 billion in revenues this past season.
We spent a lot of times over the last two days talking about a number of issues that we feel might come up during the process of negotiations, said Fehr. We expect the negotiations to begin later this week. I expect well meet a couple times the following week and then on a regular basis during the month of July.
We have not attempted to look at the calendar beyond that point. When we approach these negotiations the object is to get a deal done that can continue the leagues momentum, and continue it uninterrupted. We certainly hope to do that.
The Negotiating Committee doesnt contain any Bruins players among their 31 initial members, but it does contain a good cross-section of veteran and young players with varying degrees of CBA experience.
The NHL players union was clear that more players could be added to the committee as subsequent meetings are scheduled between the union and the league. Fehr went so far as to say the NHLPA would provide airfare and a hotel room for any player that wanted to get involved and sit in on negotiations.
Its their future, said Fehr, of the rank-and-file hockey players that have sometimes fractured during past negotiations. They need to take responsibility for it, and Ive been absolutely persuaded that theyre ready, willing and able to do that as they should be.
While the players will have plenty of involvement, it will in some ways become a classic staring contest between Fehr and Bettman as they attempt to find a fair, amenable way to split revenues.
While the players felt they made plenty of sacrifices during the last CBA following the year-long lockout in 2004-05, they also managed to secure 57 percent of the revenues along with a 24 percent salary rollback over the last seven years.
The feeling from the league is that the NHL wants more of a 5050 split akin to the agreements hammered out in the NFL and NBA during recent labor negotiations. That could mean the players taking a wallet wallop unless both Fehr and Bettman can get creative, and it could mean missing part of the season as well.
That will be the challenge over the next three months leading up to a Sept. 15 deadline when it would seem likely the players will be locked out if both sides arent closing in on an agreement.
It also appears the NHLPA may take a stance against the current hard salary cap that artificially limits the amount of player spending for every team in the league. Whether its a luxury tax or revenue sharing or some other mechanism not yet seen in the other leagues Fehr wasnt going to give a sneak preview on Wednesday no matter what the union feels.
The salary cap is a fact of life for the players and has been since the lockout ended, said Fehr. Im not going to say anything about what the proposals will be. I think itll be pretty clear pretty early on where the parties stand on it, and where the players are. But it needs to be done at the bargaining table first.
Fehr has spoken with pride in the past year about the current system employed by Major League Baseball, so it wouldnt be shocking if he attempts pushing the NHLs landscape in that direction.
Fehr is hopeful that the sides of the bargaining aisle will get together for the betterment of the game, but it would appear on first blush one side will have to make some fairly weighty concessions.
Perhaps the vibrant state of the NHL will allow both sides to find common ground prior to the start of next season. Thats what Fehr is banking on along with the vast negotiating experience on both sides of the table, and that what Bettman has publicly hoped for.
The commissioner and other individuals at the NHL have been quoted as saying that they hope and expect we would have a quick and painless, said Fehr. All I can say from our standpoint that nothing would make us happier than to get to a resolution that everyone can find acceptable and that we can do it as fast and as least difficult a manner as we can figure out.
Trust is something that has to develop over time. You would hope there would be great trust and that would develop over a common understanding of what the background facts are. Gary is a pro. Im a pro. Weve been doing this a long time. Im hopeful that trust wont be an issue.
Thats the hope at the outset anyway.
The list of 31 players on the Negotiating Committee include:Craig Adams (Pittsburgh Penguins)Adrian Aucoin (Phoenix Coyotes)Alex Auld (Ottawa Senators)David Backes (St. Louis Blues)Marty Biron (New York Rangers)Brad Boyes (Buffalo Sabres)Chris Campoli (Montreal Canadiens)B.J. Crombeen (St. Louis Blues)Mathieu Darche (Montreal Canadiens)Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders)Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes)Brandon Dubinsky (New York Rangers)Ruslan Fedotenko (New York Rangers)Alex Goligoski (Dallas Stars)Ron Hainsey (Winnipeg Jets)Scott Hartnell (Philadelphia Flyers)Jamie Langenbrunner (St. Louis Blues)Manny Malhotra (Vancouver Canucks)Steve Montador (Chicago Blackhawks)Dominic Moore (San Jose Sharks)Brendan Morrison (Chicago Blackhawks)Douglas Murray (San Jose Sharks)George Parros (Anaheim Ducks)Chris Phillips (Ottawa Senators)Cory Schneider (Vancouver Canucks)John Tavares (New York Islanders)Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)Kevin Westgarth (Los Angeles Kings)Dan Winnik (San Jose Sharks)James Wisniewski (Columbus Blue Jackets)Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings)