Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets rep feels deal can be reached

New CBA must address weak links, sides agree

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THE NHL and the NHLPA may be miles apart in their negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement, but they do seem to be in consensus on a very basic and important starting point:

Any league that has operated a franchise for a couple of seasons because it can't close a deal on new ownership -- hello, Phoenix -- and has several other fires burning certainly needs all its partners to come to the negotiating table with some quick-fix and long-term solutions.

The NHLPA tabled their view of the NHL's financial landscape on Tuesday -- executive director Don Fehr called it an 'alternative system' -- and the league is expected to get back with their thoughts as soon as Wednesday morning. Yes, after a few weeks of behind-the-scenes prep work, the two sides now seem to be rolling up their sleeves.

The big question now is, can the two sides get this ironed out so Winnipeg Jets fans can be belting out 'True North!' at their home opener Oct. 13.

"I don't think we're at the point where it's panic time because we've got meetings scheduled for the next four weeks," Jets NHLPA rep Ron Hainsey said Tuesday from Toronto. "But we both think we have some teams that need help and the players are willing to help in that regard to make sure these teams are in good standing for the long term. We want to make sure we can help these teams and fix the system now so that teams that aren't as fortunate as those in markets that are driving revenue up are going to be healthy in the long term.

"Knowing that we're both on that page, I'm not concerned yet. We've still got plenty of time to work out the numbers and work out where we're headed."

That said, the expiration of the current deal on Sept. 15 is fast approaching and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has already indicated that if a new CBA isn't in place by the middle of next month, there will be a lockout.

Lower share

Hainsey said the NHLPA's proposal offered a number of different concepts, including the players taking a lower share of revenue in the next three years. Currently, the players get a 57 per cent chunk of league revenue, but the NHL proposal called for a reduction to 46 per cent and possibly lower, depending on a redefinition of some aspects of hockey-related revenue.

"What we presented was a lot of different revenue-sharing ideas," Hainsey said. "We'd be crazy to think that all of them are going to be loved or some of them are going to be loved, but we've come up with a number of ideas to really target the teams that really need the help. There are very creative ideas with cap space and how it can be used and not be used

"What we're talking about in our proposal is players taking a lower share going forward in order to help the less-stable teams that need the help. The way we're getting there may be slightly different (than the NHL's proposal) and we may want things to be different in revenue sharing than they currently are, but the thought process is similar: there are teams that definitely need help and how are we going to get there.

"Our goal is the same, its just how we're going to go about it is what we're going to get into over the next five weeks."

-- with files from Gary Lawless

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2012 C2

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