After cancelling Wednesday’s meeting, the NHL and the players’ union met on Thursday, but the meeting was brief compared to previous talks.
The two sides sat down for a full 90 minutes, where the NHLPA presented their proposal on player contracts, before adjourning the meeting. The league’s initial proposal called for a restriction on the length of contracts and extensions, even though players like Scott Hartnell recently signed a six-year extension and Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Sidney Crosby all signed long-term contracts with their respective teams.
Afterward, league commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media and did not sound optimistic.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re far apart,” he said, adding that the main stumbling block in talks are economic issues such as player contracts. Bettman was to the point where he even said “we believe that we are paying the players more than we should be.”
He did, however, say that differences in revenue sharing, which seemed to be a huge sticking point between the two sides, were close to being resolved.
As for the prospect of a lockout, which Bettman warned would happen if a deal was not in place by Sept. 15: “We recovered last time because we have the world’s greatest fans.”
Donald Fehr, NHLPA director, was still hopeful that there’s still time to reach an agreement but said that both sides would do well to review each side’s views on key issues and be prepared for discussion next week. He also said it was no surprise that the owners want to pay the players less money.
On Wednesday, Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with Fehr and his deputy director and brother Steve Fehr. The two-hour meeting concluded with the cancellation of the scheduled talks between the two sides.
Negotiations will continue next Tuesday while the NHLPA will hold regional meetings in the next few days.