NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated unequivocally that the NHL will lock out the players if there is no agreement reached between the sides by September 15th. By all accounts, the two sides are very far apart on several core issues, most notably the percentage of league revenue to be allotted to player salaries. NHLPA head Donald Fehr said on Friday that labor talks were "recessed" for the time being, as there are currently no meetings between the two sides scheduled. "We are prepared to move when they are," said Fehr. "Hopefully it won't be too long."
However, Mr. Bettman believes it is the players who need to make the first move to restart the negotiation process. On Tuesday, the NHL presented a proposal which would give the players a 46% share of revenue, an increase of $460 million from their initial offer of 43%. On Friday, Mr. Bettman expected to receive a counter-proposal from the players, but instead was shown what the Toronto Globe and Mail described as a "series of alternative options that could be applied to the fourth year of the NHLPA's original offer. The players held fast to their stance that the negotiations should start with their current 57% share of the revenue.
Mr. Bettman made is clear that the league will not negotiate against itself and feel that the NHL is "stonewalling" the process by failing to produce a counter-proposal. "Somebody needs to be in the position to offer or say something new," said Bettman. "And considering we made such a large move on Tuesday, to have gotten the response that we got is disappointing."
Fehr and the NHLPA heads are going to stay in New York in case the negotiations begin again, but it appears that each side is waiting on the other to make a move at this point. With only 10 days before the lockout is set to begin, time is running out and seemingly vast differences remain between the two parties. However, if and when an agreement regarding the percentage given to player salaries is reach, expect the remaining issues to be resolved quickly.
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