’Wide gap’ remains in labour talks with union, says NHL
National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday expressed concern that a “wide gap” remained in the ongoing labor talks, a day after the players’ union submitted its counter-proposal to the league.
On Tuesday, the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) had suggested a plan to reduce the players’ percentage of revenues for three years if owners agreed to share greater revenue with struggling teams.
“There is still a wide gap between us and not much time to go,” Bettman told reporters as the two parties continued talks in a bid to resolve a labor dispute that could threaten the 2012-13 season.
“There are a number of issues where we see the world differently. (The counter-proposal) wasn’t particularly responsive to our proposal.”
Hoping to avoid another lockout like the one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 NHL season, the union said it could be giving up $465 million in revenue if the league continues to grow at an average rate, though that number could rise to as much as $800 million if the growth matches the past two years.
“I do think (NHL officials) treat (our plan) as significant concessions,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said. “It’s just not what they asked for.”
If a new deal is not reached before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, the NHL could impose a lockout that would threaten regular season play.
While both sides have reached common ground on some smaller issues, including player safety, there remains a significant gap with regard to the economics of a new labour agreement as many teams feel they cannot survive under the current system.
The NHL wants to reduce the players’ share of hockey-related revenues to 46% from 57% despite enjoying record-breaking revenue of $3,3 billion last season along with a spike in television ratings.
The labour talks are expected to continue on Thursday at the NHLPA’s Toronto headquarters, though Bettman and Fehr are not expected to meet again until next Wednesday.
That gives the two sides less than a month to sort out their issues before training camps for the 2012-13 NHL season could face delays or cancellations.
The NHL’s 82-game regular season is currently scheduled to open on Oct. 11.