The momentum that seemed to be carrying the National Hockey League toward a labor settlement crashed into a brick wall Thursday afternoon, as a negotiating session between the league and the players' union lasted little more than a hour with commissioner Gary Bettman calling the players' counterproposal to the league's offer a "step backward".
"I am, to say the least, totally disappointed," Bettman said at a hastily called news conference after the session broke off.
The players shared Bettman's pessimism, if not his feeling as to who's to blame. David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, in a text to ESPN's Pierre LaBrun, said, "We feel our newest proposal took a great step towards getting a deal done. It's too bad the owners don't feel that way."
Backes added: "I fear that we may miss an extended amount of time now."
The league on Tuesday had proposed a 5050 split of all hockey related revenue, an offer that the National Hockey League Players Association spent most of two days studying. On Wednesday, association president Donald Fehr said the proposed deal would cost the players 1.6 billion over the six-year life of the contract, and the union prepared a counterproposal for Thursday's negotiating session.
Bettman, however, said the players' offer did not "even began to approach a 50-50 split" and that the sides were speaking different languages. He said the talks broke off after only an hour "because there was really nothing there."
The union yet to meet officially with the media, but one of the players who attended the session -- speaking to CSNNE.com's Danny Picard on the condition of anonymity -- disagreed with Bettman's assessment.
"We gave the owners three different ways to get to 50 percent," he said. "We again moved towards them in every one."
"I don't know what the next step is," said Bettman, who added he is concerned by the lack of progress in negotiations.
The player told Picard: "We have to continue to work with the owners. If they want to play so badly, they can repeal the lockout."
More to come . . .