[NHL] League rebuffs players' offer: Report

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Dec. 13, 2004. 09:37 PM

League rebuffs players' offer: Report


Any optimism that may have existed after last Thursday's proposal by the NHL Players' Association has all but vanished on the eve of the next round of labour talks.

According to a league memo obtained by TSN, the NHL has rejected the union's offer - which included a 24 per cent rollback on existing contracts.

In the letter to the league's 30 owners dated Sunday, Bill Daly, the NHL's executive vice-president and chief legal officer, said the union offer "while offering necessary and significant short-term financial relief, falls well short of providing the fundamental systemic changes that are required to ensure that overall league economics remain in sync on a going-forward basis.

"While the immediate `rollback' of 24 per cent offered by the union would materially improve league economics for the 2004-05 season, there is virtually nothing in the union's proposal that would prevent the dollars `saved' from being re-directed right back into the player compensation system, such that the league's overall financial losses would approach current levels in only a matter of a couple of years."

The league had no immediate comment on the TSN report. The NHLPA said it would serve no purpose "to comment on excerpts from a leaked league document."

The leak comes on the heels of criticism of the union offer from the ownership of the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators.

Meanwhile, NHLPA president Trevor Linden was surprised the NHL leaked its answer to the players offer.

Linden told Vancouver radio station AM 730 it would have been nice to sit in a room and talk it over with the NHL.

Linden says with all the concessions the union has made, he can't believe the owners still can't be responsible enough and set a budget they can stick with.

"I don't think there's too many businesses out there that don't have to set their own budgets and don't have to be responsible, and I find it amazing that they need us to do that for them," Linden said.

Both sides meet Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST at the league's Toronto office where the NHL will hand over its counter-proposal.

The players reject the league position that their offer is a temporary fix.

"We have given up a lot," New York Islanders captain Michael Peca told The Canadian Press on Monday. "And I think it's a little misleading when the league says it's a one-shot deal. The offer would re-set the market, it's going to bring arbitration into play and all the other factors."

The union feels it made major concessions last Thursday, enough to salvage the season.

"Our proposal provides a basis for the owners to reduce their labour costs in a meaningful and reliable way and there can be no doubt as to its impact given the fact over $500 million (all figures U.S.) of the savings come out of existing contracts and at least another $500 million in savings will result from the significant system changes being offered," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin told The Canadian Press on Monday.

The question now is whether the NHL's counter-proposal will include a link between player costs and league revenues. If so, the season is likely over because the NHLPA will not accept a salary cap.

The leaked memo says the NHL counter-proposal will ask for the complete removal of salary arbitration and a "restructuring" of the NHLPA's 24 per cent salary rollback.

The league praised the union last week for the rollback offer, but said the proposal still didn't include "cost certainty." Commissioner Gary Bettman can't publicly say it, but he wants a salary cap in order to control some owners and GMs, whose bad signings during the last CBA help salaries spiral out of control.

And that's where the players draw the line. The NHLPA doesn't feel it its responsibility to protect the owners and GMs from themselves.

"There comes a point when teams need to be accountable for some of the business decisions that they've made," Peca said from his off-season home in Buffalo. "If everybody could conduct their business like a (New Jersey GM) Lou Lamoriello or like Brian Burke did in Vancouver, then they're going to be successful.

"In the business world, if a company makes a bad business decision, then they have to pay for it, whether the stock goes down or whatever happens. They want an idiot-proof system where they take that possibility away from their general managers or owners - owners that look at owning a hockey team as just a hobby and not a business entity."

But Oilers governor Cal Nichols publicly rejected the union's offer Monday.

"In my opinion, and that of the Edmonton Oilers, it is an enticement to carry on doing essentially what we're doing and the Edmonton Oilers won't be here long-term if that's what we're prepared to accept," Nichols told reporters in Edmonton.

That came a day after Senators owners Eugene Melnyk told reporters in Ottawa that the union's offer wasn't good enough, calling the rollback "a one-shot deal that doesn't work."

"I found Mr. Melnyk's recent comments puzzling, especially in light of how our proposal would impact his team," said Saskin. ``The Ottawa Senators, with a large number of players under contract for a number of years, have over $10 million in guaranteed reductions to payroll in the first year and over an additional $17 million in the following years. When coupled with the other important system changes being made, I fail to see how Ottawa would not be able to manage their player budget in a way that does not provide them with a significantly lower player cost for the foreseeable future."

Lamoriello, who sits on the league's negotiating committee, was a little more hopeful Monday that talks could still continue. He points to the rollback as a good start.

"Like everyone else, I was pleased that for the first time there was an acceptance - whether it be directly or indirectly - of the (Arthur) Levitt report," he told The Canadian Press from New York. ``That the dollars that have been bandied around that were lost, finally came to the forefront. And I thought that was a very positive thing because before you can move forward you have to have some type of agreement somewhere.

"And hopefully the open dialogue can just continue. The game is more important than any of us and we have to do whatever is in the best interest of the game."

But Peca doubted the players could give back much more.

"We've kind of reached a breaking point where we've given back so much that there's really no room for us to go," he said.

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There ain't gonna be hockey anytime soon.&nbsp:no:o:


At least they are talking again.

Maybe we'll see a counter proposal and then a counter-counter proposal...

24% and still not good enough? Jesus.


The league wants a deal with "cost certainty" so that the owners will be protected from stupid signings and their other mistakes.

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"We have given up a lot," New York Islanders captain Michael Peca told The Canadian Press on Monday.

uhhh no. in two years when you're forced to spend your days working 9-5 then you'll have given up quite a bit, chump.

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dude, 24%? that seems like a lot to me. the hockey players don't make much compared to the other major sports to begin with.

didn't they say it would have been like 5 billion over several years...seems like a lot to me...

i wonder how much those suits are still making this year, probably more than most of the players.

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Trevor Linden, president of the NHLPA, said he was surprised the NHL leaked its answer to the players offer.

Linden told Vancouver radio station AM 730 it would have been nice to sit in a room and talk it over with the NHL.

Linden says with all the concessions the union has made, he can't believe the owners still can't be responsible enough and set a budget they can stick with.

``I don't think there's too many businesses out there that don't have to set their own budgets and don't have to be responsible, and I find it amazing that they need us to do that for them,'' Linden said.


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Dec. 14, 2004. 09:52 AM

NHL, its owners 'lie:' Holik

NEW YORK (CP) ? The NHL and its owners "lie all the time," according to New York Rangers forward Bobby Holik.

"Lying comes very easy to these people," Holik told the New York Post in a story published Tuesday. "The owners and league lie all the time to further their agenda.

"What that is, it appears pretty obvious to me at this point, is to break the union and start all over again with entirely new players."

Holik's comments came in a weekend interview about the NHL lockout, the Post said.

The comments were used in a Post column on the lockout.

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Dec. 15, 2004. 07:00 AM

NHL deal is there to be made

Great divide over money narrows


For the first time in more than two years, there are concrete reasons to believe the NHL will play this season.

Ignore the doomsday predictions and the gruesome rhetoric from the league and the players association.

Forget the fact union boss Bob Goodenow ripped the NHL's accounting figures as "completely useless and phony" yesterday while league commissioner Gary Bettman accused the players of inventing "bogus" issues.

The startling fact that emerged from yesterday's meeting between the two sides in Toronto is that they are relatively close on money.

And this is all about money.

At the moment, it is purely principle and bravado that divides the league and the union and has this labour stalemate in its 12th week. Thus it seems inconceivable that either side will destroy this season and cause irreparable damage to the already troubled industry by flushing the entire season down the loo.

There is $2 billion (U.S.) to be shared on the table right now, and the league is offering the players 54 cents of every dollar.

In their last proposal, the players submitted a series of givebacks that would drop their share of league revenues from in excess of 70 per cent to about 57 per cent.

So the players want at least 57 per cent. The league is offering 54 per cent, and clearly is willing to improve that offer.

Does it make any sense either side will commit sporting suicide over such a small difference in dollars?

Can you imagine that 700 hockey players will throw away in excess of $1 billion on points of principle and philosophy?

Moreover, that either side would try to claim a point of principle on any collective bargaining matter runs close to farce.

The players, don't forget, vowed to never, ever accept a luxury tax system 10 years ago during the last lockout. Now they are proposing such a system.

The owners say player salaries must be capped. But they maintain ticket prices should be set by market forces.

The players say they will never accept a cap. Yet they are proposing themselves that players entering the league should have their earnings limited for three years.

The owners argue salary inflation has ruined them. Yet they sign the contracts.

So forget principle. This isn't about contracting out or health benefits or indexed pensions.

This is a fight over the green.

If Goodenow and Bettman can manage to get out of the way of their own cumbersome words, we all now know there's a deal to be made here.

Of course, to say there is certainty that a new collective bargaining agreement will be signed soon or in time to save this season would be stretching the point.

Maybe this is more like going from black to midnight blue. A barely perceptible shift in possibilities.

But the events of the past few days have revealed a surmountable gap in the dollar demands of the union and the percentage of NHL revenues the league is prepared to give.

Moreover, they are still at the stage of lecturing each other. Actual give-and-take negotiations are still ahead.

Remember, when the owners last locked out the players back in the 1994-95 season, a deal on Jan. 11, 1995 saved the season and produced a 48-game schedule.

The NHL has declined to give a drop-dead date this time around. But there is reason to believe the two sides have at least three weeks to come up with a deal, if not more.

Another promising sign is that both sides are starting to get creative, searching for different ways to cut a deal.

Last week, Goodenow made a clever offer of a 24 per cent, across-the-board pay cut for the entire 700-plus members of his union that would have immediately saved the league in excess of $300 million.

Yesterday, Bettman came up with an equally clever response, shifting the rollback to a system under which more than half of the union membership, those making less than $800,000, would not give up a dime of income.

Instead, the players making more than $5 million would give up 35 per cent, a clear attempt by the league to drive a stake down the middle of the union.

In other words, the league took the union's proposal and turned it against the players in a rather dramatic twist.

In addition, the league offered to increase the minimum salary to $300,000 from $185,000, and shot down union suggestions that it intends to outlaw guaranteed contracts, a motherhood issue for the players association.

"That is a bogus issue," said Bettman.

Slowly, the rhetoric and posturing is being cut away. Expect that both sides will go underground for a week or more, then new talks will kick in sometime after Christmas.

Expect more dire predictions the season is about to go under. In the end, maybe they'll make a deal and there will be hockey. Maybe they won't.

But a deal is undeniably there if both want it.


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They need a hard-line salary cap. Every sport needs a hard-line salary cap. Football has one, and is great because of it. Without it, it seems that every few years this is going to continue to happen.

It makes play for competitive, and more fun for the fan to watch.

Baseball needs to follow suit as well.

I say bring in the replacement players.

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