Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 12/7/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
They tried something new in negotiations for a new NHL collective bargaining agreement this week.
Four owners were added to the mix and interacted directly across from players. Participation from NHL and NHLPA counsel and staff was limited to one extra each.
The dynamic was designed to, and did, foster communication and a better understanding of the other side.
And for a day, some listening to ideas and provisions and the reasons for them went both ways, and though the details stayed inside, optimism was impossible to keep in the room,
The moderates on both sides seemed to have seized their opportunity for a foothold. Reason won the day.
For a day.
And then, well, we all should have known better.
This labour dispute has already been too protracted, too dug in, too obstinate in so many directions. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr don't like any characterizations of lack of trust hurting these talks, but it's there in plain sight.
The league doesn't believe Fehr and the union want to make a deal. At least not yet.
The players' side is quick to point to all the reasons the NHL is unwilling to dance, be it player contract issues, make-whole or transition payments or term of deal.
The sniping at Bettman, Fehr, Boston owner Jeremy Jacobs or the revolving door of players in and our of meetings just never goes away. Trusting people just don't do that.
After this week's early optimism, the suggestion's been made that the NHLPA just didn't trust owners talking directly to players any longer.
After a frantic day Wednesday where both sides had their mini-volcanoes but still moderates urging each other to keep at it, be reasonable and not give up, Thursday's acrimony was unavoidable.
Because it was not yet the correct time for the moderates to save the day.
They may well have paved the way to a deal, if there's one to be had in the coming few weeks that are left, but Fehr and his leadership are not yet ready to put a series of provisions in front of all the players and say, as one sage participant in the NHL's economy and culture put it the other day:
"We thought we could get X, right now we've got Y but I think this is about the best we're going to do."
Equally, the same words don't seem to have yet come from Bettman to his group of owners.
So again Thursday, after nearly two days of leak blackouts, the details began flowing -- always bad news if you want to be hopeful -- followed by aggressive recriminations. With their new money in hand, Fehr suggested the dollar amounts just about matched and that a deal ought to be close.
Bettman followed, and as a large audience could see he was particularly offended and animated as he explained this week's moderate-generated offers were a package deal not to be cherry-picked and saying things we're close was a mistake.
Now the week's progress, initiated by the moderates, has been tossed in the trash can and the hard-liners on both sides have their opening to resume control.
Will a deal come with the hawks on each side in charge?
It's very hard to see how, given the short time frame left before, as Bettman hinted Thursday, a viable season of at least 48 games can still be conducted.
Bettman may have said the most salient thing in Thursday's flurry, that it was time to step back and take a deep breath.
But maybe the examination period will drive home the reality that for those truly interested in a deal, the moderate voices will eventually be the ones coming up with the resolution.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2012 C3
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Ducks shut out Canucks 4-0
Gaudreau scores 2 as Flames top Sabres 4-1
Smith scores in OT, Predators beat Avalanche 4-3
Canadiens recall Dumont from Bulldogs
Red Wings beat Panthers 5-4 for 6th straight victory
Halak, Islanders beat rival Rangers again, 4-1
Simmonds gets winner in SO as Flyers beat Coyotes 4-3
Atkinson, Tyutin lead Blue Jackets past Capitals 4-3
Crosby-less Penguins rally for 5-3 win over Winnipeg
Son: Howe's recovery "unbelievable"
Devils need to climb big hill to avoid another bad year
Former Oilers forward Dvorak retires
LA Kings' Mike Richards clears waivers, assigned to AHL
Sharks in 'dogfight' to secure playoff berth
Goaltender Martin Brodeur to retire
Back to Hiller versus Ramo in Flames net
Slow-starting Stars return from break with eye on playoffs
Flyers F Rinaldo suspended for 8 games by NHL
Richards waived by champion Los Angeles Kings
Defenceman Erik Johnson out 3-to-8 weeks with knee injury
Crosby out at least 1 game, Letang could return Tuesday
Predators eager to build on their best start without Rinne
Isles' top-line forward Okposo out 6 to 8 weeks
Surprising Jets aiming to land in playoffs
Wild send Kuemper on AHL conditioning assignment
Phaneuf out week-to-week with injury
Evidence complete in Guy Lafleur civil trial
Capitals among East contenders; West race too tight to call
Sabres suspend Zadorov for missing practice
Columbus forward Johansen named first star
Kings place Mike Richards on waivers
Jackets goalie Bobrovsky out 4-6 weeks with groin injury
Offense rules as Tavares scores 4 in Team Toews' 17-12 win
NHL pitches a no-hitter
Coyotes star had emergency surgery at HSC
All-Star Game Notebook
NHL all-star game
Johansen gets hometown nod in NHL All-Star game MVP vote
Canadiens recall Thomas from Bulldogs