Bettman: Owners, players not speaking same language

Bettman: Owners, players not speaking same language
October 18, 2012, 6:00 pm
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Things don't look good between Gary Bettman and the NHL Players Association.

(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

The following is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's exchange with the media after talks with the players' association broke off without any progress.

Bettman: Let me first reiterate that on Tuesday we were hopeful and optimistic that what we were offering, which we believed to be a fair 50-50 deal with the other factors we put in the proposals, was something that, if we could get it done quickly, would enable us to play a full 82-game regular season and playoffs and get the puck dropped by November 2nd. We still believe that that is a fair and balanced deal and one which would give this game, our franchises, our league long-term stability and it’s something we still very much believe in.

The players’ association came back and basically made three alternate proposals on players’ share – all variations to some degree of the one proposal that they made over the summer and really haven’t deviated from since. And none of the three variations of players’ share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50 either at all or for some long period of time, and it’s clear that we’re not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with.

It is still my hope that we can accomplish my goal, the league’s goal, of getting an 82-game season, but I am concerned, based on the proposal that was made today, that things are not progressing. To the contrary, I view the proposal that was made by the players’ association in many ways a step backward. The proposal that we made, so we can be clear about it, at 50-50 and all the other things, was the best that we could do. We gave it our best shot. It is our best offer. We gave the players’ association what we had to give.

We indicated that we’re prepared to have discussions; that we’re prepared to look for tweaks or adjustments. But this is the deal that we believe this league needs to get the games going. We believe it’s fair to the players. We hope that we can continue with such a deal the growth of the game and the increase in player salaries, which has seen an average increase of a million dollars over the last seven years. But the longer this goes, and particularly if we’re not in the position to have an 82-game regular season, the damage may in fact make it even more difficult as time goes on to make a deal. I am, to say the least, thoroughly disappointed, but I’m giving you the facts.
Is this your final offer?

This is the best offer we have to make.

Will there be more talks?

We have each other’s numbers and if there’s something to talk about we’re always ready, willing and able to be anywhere at any time.

What was the reason given [inaudible]

I assume the union assumed that variety was a good idea. And by the way, we understood them very quickly. While initially [the proposals] may look complicated, we’re facile enough with the business and the issues and the numbers that it didn’t take us long at all to understand what was being proposed and, as I said, it really was just a variant of the one proposal that has been made.

Was the offer better than the last one?

Maybe by a limited degree, but it’s nowhere near 50-50 or what we told you and them is the best we can do.

What kind of impact may a work stoppage have?

Any work stoppage is just a tremendous hardship on anyone associated with the game. The franchises all believe and are supportive of the positions that have been taken and in fact, as we discussed upstairs, a number of franchises thought we actually went too far in what we offered to get the season going. But everybody, including those clubs who think we went too far, are so committed to get the game going that we gave it our best shot.


I’m not in the mode of trying to either lecture or threaten the players, which is what I think your question entails. I believe that they’re being represented by people who are advising them, I assume, of what the challenges are when you’re in this situation.


I don’t believe that conducting negotiations and getting into the specifics publicly and characterizing them and mischaracterizing them is helpful. The fact is, we’re nowhere close to what we had proposed and was our best offer to get the puck down as quickly as possible.

Why was your most recent proposal made public?

Because it was being leaked, mischaracterized and erroneously portrayed and tweeted on Tuesday night. We felt in fairness to everybody associated with the game they should understand exactly what we proposed. In particular there were a number of tweets suggesting we were still changing the definition of HRR [hockey-related revenue] which when you look at the proposal, it’s absolutely clear that we’re not.


The fact is, we’re extraordinarily unhappy with each passing day with which we can’t be planning to actually play the season. I don’t know exactly what the time frame is. I was focused on today’s meting But obviously, as the calendar ticks away we’re going to do some more cancellations. We needed a signed deal by the 25th of October so that we could open training camps on the 26th with the regular season starting on November 2nd. That’s as far as we could go and still play 82 games and be done with the playoffs by the end of June. Obviously, nobody would think it was appropriate for us to be playing in July.

What’s the next step?

Hopefully, we’ll hear back, but I don’t know what the next step is. I’m obviously very discouraged.

How do these negotiations impact the Winter Classic and [HBO’s] 24/7?

I know there has been a lot made of 24/7 and in particular the Winter Classic. It takes a lot of time and it takes the commitment of a lot of money in order to put on the Winter Classic and we’re going to have to go back and revisit. But my understanding is at some point in the not too distant future we will have to commit many millions of dollars if we’re going to play the Winter Classic on January 1st. Obviously, under these circumstances and all the uncertainty, we’re not going to commit many millions of dollars if we don’t think we’re going to have a deal. And so the Winter Classic timeframe in terms of making that decision, is probably rapidly approaching. That’s a discussion I’m going to have to have internally to see when those commitments actually have to be made

How far apart are you, really? Are we talking one percent?

Oh, no. The union’s proposal actually contemplates us paying more on players’ share, even in the first year. I really don’t want to get into the specifics. Discussing the specifics is not going to move this process and at some point the process has to get moved along. I wish I had better news. Thank you