Season Still Cancelled after Weekend Meeting

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association each blamed each other after a Saturday meeting yielded no results in an attempt to “un-cancel” the 2004-05 NHL season.

Leading up to the meeting, it was widely reported that the two sides were close to a deal that had been hammered out by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. At the meeting, it appears that neither side actually offered a proposal and both the league and the players left frustrated.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman placed the blame for the rumors fully on the shoulders of the NHLPA.

“I think this was a setup, I think it was done intentionally to try and cause the type of reaction that we saw all weekend.”

Bettman said that the league did nothing to deny the rumors circulating on Friday because the league had nothing to do with starting them.

Bob Goodenow, NHLPA chief executive, responded by noting that the league called the meeting and that the NHLPA never suggested that they were going to make an offer.

The league will regroup on March 1 when the Board of Governors meet. The Players’ Association is scheduled to meet next week.

Un-cancellation?

Representatives from the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association will meet on Saturday, even though the season has already been cancelled. Reportedly, an agreement in principle on a salary cap already exists and the Saturday meeting would clear up other loose ends.

Both sides denied that an agreement had been reached, dispite the intervention of Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, two of the greatest players of all time who are now owners.

“The report is absolutely false,” a spokesman for the NHLPA said.

Bill Daly, NHL vice president, who told Canada’s TSN that the report was “entirely untrue and without foundation.”

If an agreement is reached, the season will be un-cancelled and a 28-game, intra-conferecne schedule will be played.

Lost Season: Bettman Announces Season’s Cancellation

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman announced the formal cancellation of the 2005 NHL season at a 1:00 PM press conference on Wednesday. It marks the first time in North American pro sports history that a season has been cancelled due to labor issues.

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association traded emails late Tuesday night but even as each side offered some consessions, an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement could not be reached. The 11:00 AM deadline that Bettman set came and went without further negotiations.

In the end, the best offer that the league could come up with included a salary cap at $42.5 million. Although it was up from their previous offer, it wasn’t enough.

The players, who agreed to work with a salary cap earlier in the week after months of refusing one, offered a deal with a “soft” cap set at $49 million. The cap could be exceeded twice in six years but only by 10%.

Bettman contended that if every team spent to the limit of the cap, they’d be spending more than they did last year under the old system. At the close of negotiations, NHLPA executive directory Bob Goodenow replied that not every team would be at the cap and that Bettman’s math was flawed.

Had an agreement been reached, a 28-game season would have been played with full playoffs.

“Final” Offers Made, Still No Agreement

With NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s 11:00 AM deadline to save the season fast approaching, “final” offers were made as the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association try to work out a deal.

Late Tuesday night, Bettman emailed NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow with the offer of a deal with a $42.5 million salary cap. The offer was up from the league’s previous demand for a salary cap at $40 million.

Goodenow replied with an offer for a “soft” cap at $49 million, down from the $52 million cap they had offered earlier in the week. The soft cap could be exceeded twice in six years by up to 10%.

Bettman quickly refused the offer, stating “[i]f every team spent to the $49 million level you have proposed, total player compensation would exceed what we spent last season…”

Responding to Bettman’s allegation that the players’ proposal would cost the league more than they had been spending, Goodenow pointed out that not every team would be at the cap.

“Your claim that the Clubs ‘cannot afford’ our proposal is based on your hypothetical fear of what would happen if every team spent to the $49 million level the Players have proposed. The notion that ‘every Club’ will spend at the $49 million level is contradicted by years of actual payroll experience under the old CBA system and by Exhibit 12 of your December 14 document (attached for your recollection), in which you projected 24 teams well below the $49 million level after the rollback. Further, this experience is based on an environment without revenue sharing, taxes on team payrolls and the numerous new system restrictions.”

Goodenow closed his email with “You will receive nothing further from us.”

No further communication between the two sides has been published.

Players Offer Salary Cap as Deadline Nears

In secret meetings on Monday night in Niagara Falls, the National Hockey League Players’ Association presented a new proposal for a collective bargaining agreement with the NHL that, for the first time in these negotiations, included a salary cap. Despite the inclusion of the cap, set at $52 million per team, the league rejected the offer.

The NHL has contended throughout the lockout that a salary cap is needed for the league to continue to operate. The Players’ Association had said that it would never accept a cap but with the cancellation of the season set to be announced on Wednesday, they gave up on that in an attempt to save the season.

Earlier in the meeting, the league offered a salary cap at $40 million. The PA rejected that deal.

There are reports that the players’ offer included a “soft cap” rather than the “hard cap” that the league has been pushing for. If it is a hard cap, the $52 million limit could not be exceeded under any circumstances. A soft cap could be exceeded three time in six years by up to 10%. There is no confirmation that a soft cap was put forth.

If no agreement is reached, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will announce the cancellation of the season at a press conference at 1:00 PM on Wednesday. Individual team press conferences are scheduled to follow.

Should an agreement be reached, a 28-game season would be played. Teams would face each of their conference opponents in a home-and-home series and the playoffs would be determined by conference standing. The four playoff rounds would be played as usual.

No Meetings Scheduled After Thursday Session

No further meetings are scheduled between the National Hockey Leagye and the NHL Players’ Association after a Thursday meeting that was referred to as being “pointless.” With a collective bargaining agreement unlikely to be reached by Sunday, the league is looking at the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

The Thursday meeting came after a Wednesday night dinner at which the NHL offered to accept the players’ most recent proposal, as long as four “triggers” were added that, if reached, would switch the deal to the salary capped offer that the league proposed a week ago.

The NHLPA contends that at least one of the three triggers would be met automatically, thus allowing the league to enact a salary cap at the end of a shortened 2005 season.

After Thursday’s meeting, the two sides traded shots through the media.

“Their outright rejection of our proposal yesterday I think speaks more to the fact that the union is never, ever, ever, ever – under any circumstances – prepared to play under any kind of cost-certain, economic partnership, salary cap – you pick the term – type of system,” NHL executive vice president Bill Daly told reporters in a conference call.

“They have made it clear they have only one way of doing things, and that’s through their hard-cap system,” NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin responded. “Their position has not changed from the outset.”

Deadline Set at Secret Meeting

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association met for a late dinner Wednesday evening as the league offered what it called its “best shot” at saving the 2005 season.

The league also set a deadline for a deal to be reached. If a new collective bargaining agreement is not in the works by the end of the weekend, the season will be cancelled.

The NHLPA rejected the league’s offer and executive director Bob Goodenow was not optimistic.

“The likelihood that we would be able to conclude an agreement by the end of the weekend? Very daunting.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman warned the Players’ Association that they will not get a better offer from the league.

“I think there will be a tremendous amount of damage, the amount of revenues will obviously decline if we don’t play this season and therefore whatever the players would expect going forward is going to be diminished.

“The deal can only get worse, from a technical matter and as an economic matter, the longer we go without a new deal. That’s not a threat, that’s simply the reality of where we find ourselves.”

The league’s proposal accepts the terms of the PA’s December 9th offer – centered around a 24% salary rollback – but adds conditions upon which the CBA would switch to the league’s February 2nd proposal – centered around a salary cap.

If the league pays out more than 55 per cent of its revenues in salaries, if any three teams have a payroll of more than $42 million, if the average payroll of the three highest-spending teams is more than 33 per cent higher than the average of the three lowest spending teams, or if average team compensation exceeds $36.5 million, the league would have the right to make the switch.

Goodenow argued that one of the conditions would be met immediately.

“Even after our 24 per cent rollback and before clubs would sign any new players, we forecast over three teams would be over the $42-million level. So just at first blush, a trigger would be met,” he argued.

The league says that it’s premature to say whether or not the conditions would be met immediately.

The two sides will meet again on Thursday but the NHLPA will not present a new proposal.

The End is Here?

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association met for four hours in New York today after a nine-hour meeting yesterday but were unable to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The most recent meetings reportedly did not go well, as NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow’s response was pessimistic.

“We met the last couple of days, tried to cover some issues and maybe a few new issues to see if there was a possibility of some common ground and some traction, but that isn’t the case,” Goodenow told reporters before leaving New York.

The NHL had a more positive outlook.

“We had extensive and constructive talks over the past two days,” executive vice-president Bill Daly said in a statement. “While there are no future meetings scheduled, we have agreed to keep the lines of communication open.”

It is widely believed that an agreement must come soon, possibly within the next few days, if there is any hope for a season to be played this winter. ESPN reported earlier in the week that the league planned to cancel the season on either Thursday or Friday but that was denied by Daly.

“Despite several media reports to the contrary, we have no intention of making any further announcement relating to collective bargaining or the status of the season at this time.”

Talks Continue as Reported Deadline Nears

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association executive directory Bob Goodenow rejoined negotiations between the two sides on a new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday. Their first face-to-face meeting since December 9 lasted from 1:30 PM to nearly 11:00 PM.

Earlier in the day, ESPN reported that an unidentified owner revealed that the league would announce the cancellation of the season either Thursday or Friday. The season has not been cancelled as of yet, with more talks scheduled for Friday.

Joining Bettman were NHL executive vice president Bill Daly and outside counsel Bob Batterman, while Goodenow was accompanied by NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t look at it as anything but positive,” said a general manager who requested anonymity. “A deal is only going to get done by the two bodies working at it.

The sides have been unable to come to an agreement after over 140 days of the lockout. The NHL insists upon “cost-certainty,” what the Players’ Association calls an unexceptable salary cap.

Wednesday Meetings Concluded, More Planned Thursday

Meetings between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association concluded Wednesday with no agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. The NHLPA suggested that the two sides meet again on Thursday.

League officials presented a written offer similar to the verbal one they discussed during meetings last week. The basics of the propsal included a hard salary cap at $42 million, a salary floor at $32 million, mutual arbitration and granting players unrestricted free agent status at age 30.

NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge rejected the offer.

“The League today presented a written proposal with minor variations of concepts thar were presented orally by the NHL last Thursday,” Saskin said in a statement. “We told the League last week and again today that their multi-layered salary cap proposals were not the basis for an agreement.”

The offer also included a revenue-sharing plan whereby any league profits over a set amount would be split between the NHL and the NHLPA. Changes in entry-level contracts are also a part of the proposal.