The NHL labor talks are not going so well

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The NHL labor talks are not going so well

From Comcast SportsNet
TORONTO (AP) -- The wide gap that existed in labor talks between the NHL and NHL Players' Association was hardly bridged on Wednesday, a day after the union presented its counterproposal and with the threat of a lockout now only a month away. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the two sides are "still apart, far apart," and "not on the same page," in making his first public comments since having a chance to read through the NHLPA's offer. Adding that he was "a little disappointed" that the union has yet to present its full proposal, Bettman said the league isn't even at the point of making a counteroffer. "I think there are still a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently," Bettman said, after the two sides met for about an hour at the NHLPA headquarters in Toronto. "So there's still a wide gap between us, and not much time to go." NHLPA executive director Don Fehr described the gap between the two sides as "a pretty substantial monetary gulf." But he placed the blame on the NHL for creating the gap in the first place with the cutbacks in salary and limitations placed on free agency the league made in its initial offer last month. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, and the NHL has already warned that it will lock out its players if a new deal is not reached by then. The NHL regular season is set to open Oct. 11. Bettman's response to the NHLPA's proposal and the large gap that remains between the two sides is regarded as a significant setback. That considerably raises fears that the NHL could be headed for its fourth labor dispute in 20 years. That's a timeframe that includes the 2004-05 season which was wiped out entirely by a lockout; and dates to April 1, 1992, when a 10-day players' strike led to 30 games being postponed and rescheduled. Bettman was pleased that the union, in its proposal, stuck to the framework of a cap system and acknowledged the league has economic issues that need to be addressed. The problem was the union didn't entirely satisfy those concerns from the owners' perspective. "What the issues are and how they get solved and how deep the issues go is something we're not yet on the same page," Bettman said. Fehr disagreed by saying the union made significant concessions and addressed the league's concerns. The trouble was, he said, the union's proposal wasn't what the NHL asked for. "It's not a circumstance in which the players are just going to say, OK, take everything from us,'" Fehr said. "That's basically what it was: You had a 24 percent reduction last time, so let's have another one.' That was their proposal. That's what created the gulf." Under the league's proposal, Fehr said, players' salaries would be scaled back to the level they were before the previous lockout. Fehr also disagreed with Bettman's suggestion that the union has not presented its full proposal. He said the NHL has "almost everything" except for certain player contract issues that are tied to economics. He said the union is considering addressing those issues next week. Though talks on a sub-committee level are scheduled to continue, Bettman and Fehr won't return to the table until next week. Fehr is leaving negotiations to meet with players in both Chicago and Kelowna, British Columbia, to update them on talks. Fehr did say he will stay in touch with Bettman by phone. The union's counterproposal stood in stark contrast to what the NHL made in its initial proposal a month earlier. The NHLPA proposed a deal in which players would give up as much 465 million in revenue if the league's overall revenue continues to grow at an average rate over the first three years of the deal. Fehr indicated that number could balloon to 800 million if the league grows at the same rate it has over the past two seasons. Players would then have the option in the fourth year to revert to the current system, in which they receive between 54 and 57 percent of league revenues. The union also proposed that the NHL commit money to a revenue-sharing system to help struggling teams. Fehr described the players' offer as one that could stabilize the industry. The NHL's initial proposal placed much of the burden on its players. The league is seeking another 24 percent cut in player revenue and the introduction severe limits to free agency. That includes players waiting 10 years to be eligible to become unrestricted free agents, as opposed to seven in the current deal, and eliminating players' rights to salary arbitration. Bettman noted that players in other major sports, such as the NFL and the NBA, agreed to reduce their revenue share in new deals that have been struck over the past year. Fehr said it's unfair to make those comparisons. And he questioned why Bettman didn't mention major league baseball, which has revenue sharing among teams, doesn't have a cap system and has enjoyed labor peace.

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Wizards take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

Wizards take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

With their 104-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the Wizards improved to 22-19 overall through 41 games, the exact midpoint of the 2016-17 season. They play again the next night in New York, so there will be little time for reflection of how they got here. But after beating the Grizzlies, head coach Scott Brooks and several of his players took a look back and a look ahead.

After beginning the season 2-8, they are now three games over .500. What have they liked about their season so far, and what do they still believe can be improved?

Brooks went into extensive detail.

“I didn’t like our start; I liked the last part of the first half, where we’ve played a much better since December. The thing I liked about the start [is that] we didn’t give in to a tough start, we kept battling and figuring out ways to get better – we’re tweaking and tinkering with the lineup, the starters mixing with some of the guys coming off of the bench. Some of our younger players have really done a good job of developing and staying with it when they’re not playing. It can be tough on you mentally, but I think our staff has done a good job to keep them engaged and keep them developing.

"I think Kelly [Oubre] has made some strides. He’s taken a few steps forward [and] taken a step back, but the step back he takes, he doesn’t get frustrated and takes another step. He always seems to bounce back and come back. Otto [Porter] has, I think, developed into the most consistent shooter in the league from the three. Every night it seems like he has it. And John [Wall] and Brad [Beal], I like the way they’re playing and leading. March [Marcin Gortat] has done a good job. I think we’re playing much better because we’re really buying into each other, and I think when you do that, teams have trouble beating us. I think at home, we’ve figured that out, but we have to figure out how to do it on the road.”

Guard Bradley Beal agreed with Brooks, that he was most pleased with how the Wizards rebounded from their dreadful start. 

“I like how we fought through adversity. I think we didn't give up on our slow start. We battled back and now we're over .500 now but just imagine if we were playing the way we were supposed to the first couple of games, our record would probably be a lot different. Definitely proud of the way we've been playing, the way we bounced back. We definitely can get better at playing great defense for 48 minutes, being locked in for 48 minutes. Just making sure we continue to respect our opponents and be prepared for every game moving forward.” 

[RELATED: CMills asks why Wall, Beal don't get more national attention]

Otto Porter gave a few reasons why he thinks they are playing better now than before.

“Back then it was early. We were still figuring each other out. New coaches, new players. Right now, we are starting to figure things out. We are confident in ourselves, playing for each other, playing hard and just rolling with it... Just, I guess figuring out things defensively. Everybody is on the same page. Offensively, just letting the game come to us. Moving the ball, and knowing that we want to be a defensive team," he said.

Improving away from the Verizon Center was a common theme in the answers from players. The Wizards are now 18-6 at home, while only the Golden State Warriors have more home wins. On the road, the Wizards are only 4-13 with the Nets the only NBA team featuring less road victories.

That's enough to give them the fifth seed in the East, but they know they still have plenty of work to do.

“We have a lot we can improve on: just closing out games, playing for a full 48-minutes, moving the ball at times when we get stagnant, but I like the effort that we gave," guard John Wall said of the first half of the season. "The way that we started the season, the way we had a great month of December, and we're playing well right now. It's great to take care of home court, just want to for the second half of the season improve on the road. If we can find a way to improve on the road I feel like we could have a better record. To be in the situation we are now, the way that we started the season, you can't ask for more.”

The Wizards were in a reflective mood, but Marcin Gortat put it bluntly where he thinks the Wizards are currently at.

“[The 22-19 record means] nothing. We have to continue to do what we do. We aren’t getting excited. We’ve been in this situation where we’ve been minus-five, under .500. We just have to focus and play and now we have to get some wins on the road," he said.

[RELATED: Grizzlies pay for ignoring Otto Porter]

Last-second layup secures Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech

Last-second layup secures Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Seth Allen scored the final two of his 17 points on a layup with 15 seconds left to lift Virginia Tech to a 62-61 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

It was a game the Hokies needed after losing three of their past four games. Allen hit 6 of 9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and Zach LeDay added 17 points.

Virginia Tech (14-4 overall, 3-3 ACC) led by as many as nine in the second half, but couldn't put away the Yellow Jackets (11-7, 3-3), who had two chances in the final seconds to take the lead. Georgia Tech turned the ball over with :09 left, and then fouled Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson, who missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Quinton Stephens missed a contested jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game for Georgia Tech.

Stephens paced the Yellow Jackets with 18 points.

MORE NCAA: Should Georgetown consider parting ways with John Thompson III?