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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hopes of 82-game season evaporate

No negotiations ahead of agreement deadline

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THEIR stories don't match as to why they're not meeting, so no one should be surprised collective bargaining between the NHL and the players' association has ground to a halt.

After last week's back-and-forth proposals, this week has been marked by varying minutia and interpretations of what the other has said.

It's a clear case for pessimism given that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said today was the deadline for an agreement so that a rushed week of training camp could be held in advance of jamming in an 82-game season and full playoffs.

Players, by the way, don't believe today's the real deadline for a full season.

"Deadline this, deadline that; if they walked in last Tuesday and presented a deal and expected us to agree to it on the spot, then that deadline could have been realized," Winnipeg Jets player rep Ron Hainsey, a key member of the NHLPA inner circle, told the Free Press on Wednesday. "Any other way, I don't see it as realistic.

"Let's just use Winnipeg as an example. How could we get to Winnipeg to start camp on Friday? I guess last Tuesday, 10 days out, maybe, but where we were at that point, I just don't know. I didn't see any way this would happen overnight."

As for why there are no negotiations planned and no meetings took place through last weekend or Monday through Wednesday, Hainsey said the explanation was pretty simple, that the players wouldn't be boxed in before they even started.

NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr called it an NHL "pre-condition."

"(A possible Wednesday meeting) was under the pretense that the rest of the deal was accepted as is," Hainsey explained after the players' executive board and negotiating committee, between 90 and 100 players, held a conference call late Tuesday. "We went over that again and our idea was that if they'd like to talk about it, we'd like to talk about some sort of make-whole provision obviously... and we would love to talk about that (Wednesday) and anything else in their proposal.

"We weren't going to meet to talk about that as a term of accepting everything else."

 

"We wanted to talk about that and some other stuff and they responded late (Tuesday) night that if you're not willing to meet just to talk about the make-whole and accept everything else, then we see no point in meeting if you don't have a whole new proposal, which we didn't."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN Radio Wednesday that the league's proposal from last Tuesday was not "take-it-or-leave-it, but certainly much more of an ending point than a starting point."

Another league source insisted discussion would have been welcome on other issues but there wasn't a lot of change possible. Whoever was right no longer matters, since the last six days have ticked by without the two sides in a room.

"A wasted day? You could say that but those are your words," Hainsey said. "In my words, today nothing was accomplished, besides the Islanders signing a 25-year lease to play in Brooklyn."

Hainsey also said one of the players' biggest complaints with the NHL's latest proposal -- one of the main points is that it brings the sharing of hockey-related revenue to 50-50 -- is that there's nothing in it for the players.

"I disagree with Ron, respectfully," Daly told TSN Radio. "There are a lot of things that will be in the ultimate agreement that are player asks, that improve the health and safety of players, the comfort of players, the way they travel, the way they deal with training-camp issues.

"From an economic standpoint, the biggest thing would be an agreement that keeps the league healthy and stable so that players can continue to make very generous salaries."

He said average salaries went up about $1 million over the course of the last CBA and would rise under a new, seven-year deal proposed by the league from $2.4 million to $3.2 million, "if we continue to grow revenues."

"That's a pretty positive point for the players," he said.

Hainsey didn't like the sounds of most of that and said the league's projected numbers can't be trusted.

 

Reading the fine print

 

IS 82 games an important number for locked-out NHL players?

NHLPA negotiating committee member and Winnipeg Jets player rep Ron Hainsey responded in the context of last week's NHL proposal: "Their move sparked the media's interest and I'm sure it sparked the players' interest, that oh, here's a better offer and we can get 82 games in. People began to get excited about that, especially in the media and the fans, without really reading what it was. I had the privilege of going through it and knowing it wasn't something we'd just agree to.

"All the players and most of the teams would love to play 82 games but now we're going to be getting into November before you can blink and at some point, depending on the amount of days, common sense will kick in as to how many games you can fit in. The season is hard enough in its current state. I don't know how they were planning to do it as it was. I assumed when the first three weeks were cancelled that they were cancelled but they made a play to try to get people excited."

 

KHL suspends Kane

 

WINNIPEG Jets left-winger Evander Kane finally made some news in the KHL, but not the kind he'd hoped for.

Kane, who signed with Dinamo Minsk while the NHL is in lockout, was suspended one game by the KHL for hitting Avangard Omsk defenceman Nikita Pivtsakin in the head on Monday.

Kane missed Wednesday's game against Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk, which Minsk lost 3-2 to fall to 8-10-1.

Kane has no points and 41 penalty minutes in six games for the KHL team so far.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 25, 2012 C1

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