NHL, union continue to be far apart

846127.jpg

NHL, union continue to be far apart

From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- Another NHL lockout is beginning look inevitable.Unable to move beyond the philosophical stage of talks, the owners and players have watched another week slip by without progress. They sat down together for a quick session Thursday morning before reporting the same significant gap that has existed all along.The main issue that divides them is far from complex."We believe we're paying out more than we should be," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "It's as simple as that."Of course, the NHL Players' Association doesn't quite see it that way.Executive director Donald Fehr has acknowledged there's room for some flexibility in that area -- last week's proposal included three years with a slightly lower share in revenues for the players -- but he hasn't come to the table in a conciliatory mood after taking over a union that capitulated during the last round of negotiations."Everybody understands that employers would always like to pay less," Fehr said. "That's not a surprise to anybody -- it's disappointing sometimes -- but it's not a surprise."He went on to add that the services his constituents provide are irreplaceable."From the players' standpoint, they want a fair agreement, they want one that is equitable, they want one that recognizes their contribution," Fehr said.With both sides so entrenched, real negotiations have yet to begin even though the Sept. 15 deadline for a lockout is fast approaching.The parties attempted to make some progress Wednesday by clearing the meeting room of everyone but the key figures: Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly along with Fehr and his brother Steve Fehr, the union's No. 2 man. They soon discovered there was little common ground.Those same four men will reopen talks next Tuesday in New York during what promises to be a key negotiation session. The sides have tentatively blocked off the rest of the week for meetings as well, but they must first determine if there's anything worth talking about.That's far from guaranteed.A league that lost the entire 2004-05 season to a lockout is in real danger of having the start of another one disrupted for the same reason. The current CBA has seen the NHL grow from a 2.1 billion industry to one that pulls in 3.3 billion annually -- a fact that isn't lost on either side."We recovered well last time because we have the world's greatest fans," Bettman said.The essential difference between the offers put forward so far is perhaps best articulated in terms of their impact on the salary cap. Under the NHL's initial proposal, it would fall to 50.8 million for next season. The NHLPA's would see it set near 69 million.The league also is believed to have verbally raised the possibility of seeing the players' share in revenue drop incrementally rather than all at once. Theoretically, it could be done at a rate that is matched by an expected increase in revenues -- essentially keeping salaries constant over the duration of the agreement while owners take in more profit.So far, the union hasn't shown much interest in negotiating off of that kind of model.While it's natural to assume the parties might be more willing to make concessions as Sept. 15 nears, Fehr pointed out that they already know what's at stake."If there's going to be a lockout -- and that's something that the owners will choose or not choose -- then you would have missed games, you would have lost revenue, you would have lost paychecks," he said. "But that doesn't mean that the parties don't understand going into it that that would be the case."With the possibility of a lockout becoming more real, the posturing is starting to begin. Bettman lamented Thursday that the union wasn't ready to open talks a year ago -- the commissioner did say throughout the season there was more than enough time to make a deal -- while Fehr continues to point out that Sept. 15 is only a deadline because the NHL has made it one.The bottom line is that they need to make an agreement and there isn't one in sight.Seven years ago, the sides battled one another over the philosophical view of whether the sport needed a salary cap. With that out of the way, this fight is all about money, although Bettman declined to go into detail when asked why the owners were seeking such significant givebacks."I'm not going to get into a public debate on that," he said. "Obviously, if we didn't think that there were issues that needed to be addressed we wouldn't be in this type of negotiation."

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

red_sox_brian_johnson_2_052617.jpg

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

red_sox_brian_johnson_052617.jpg

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.