Fehr comments on NHL owners' proposal

Fehr comments on NHL owners' proposal
October 16, 2012, 4:00 pm
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NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr addressed the media in Toronto shortly after the NHL’s proposal to evenly split hockey-related revenue on the contingency of playing a full 82-game season by Nov. 2. Here is his exchange with the media:
As you probably heard from Gary [Bettman] a little while ago, he and Bill Daly did deliver a new proposal dealing principally with core economic matters today. It’s not short and there were some explanatory documents that we still have to wade through. And so the process we’re going to engage in now, as you might expect, is to make sure that we read it completely and thoroughly, that we understand it, that we understand what it would mean in connection with the existing proposals the NHL has, and the existing proposals we have on the table.
Then, obviously, what we will do is discuss it internally with our own negotiating committee and executive board and then get back together with the NHL. Whether getting back together with them will be later [Tuesday] or [Wednesday] or exactly when it will be I don’t know. I expect it will be sooner rather than later, having said that. So we’ll have to take a look at how that works.
We’re always happy to receive a proposal. We’re always going to study it. Gary indicated to me and I suspect he indicated to you that they would still like to get a full 82-game season in. We, of course, share that view and would like to get a full 82-game season in. And so what our hope is, is that after we review this there will be a feeling on the players side that this is a proposal from which we can negotiate and try and reach a conclusion. But we’re not in a position to make any comments about it beyond that at this point. So that’s where we are in essence.
[Gary Bettman] didn’t say final offer, so are you encouraged by that?
Look, whenever you make an offer in bargaining, especially one in the midst of a dispute where you have a lockout in place, you make an offer, you expect discussions, you expect further negotiation. I wouldn’t have anticipated he would say that.
Do you see the offer as an improvement on the previous offers?
In some respects I think it is. In other respects I’m not sure. But we have to look at it in detail. I don’t want to reach an overall conclusion until we’ve had an opportunity to do that kind of review. It’s unfair of the process and the players would like me to be sure what I’m talking about before I say that.
Is there anything that can be read into the fact their proposal was not dismissed outright?
I would caution you not to read anything into my comments beyond what I have said, OK? I would like to believe this will be an excellent starting point and we can go forward and see if a deal can be made. But I’m not commenting at all on the specifics of it.
Did you have any indication they were making a proposal today?
No specific indication, no. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we were surprised by it. In bargaining sometimes somebody says, ‘I’ll have a proposal.’ and sometimes they just have it. It works that way on both sides.
Is it possible to have a 50-50 split without escrow or rollbacks for the players?
Not without having very large escrow in the early years.
Did you see anything in those early years that suggests contracts will be honored without having them go into really big escrows?
We haven’t been able to run any numbers yet, much less formulate a response. I really don’t want to comment on it. It would be unfair and I think counterproductive to do that.
Is it possible this offer jumpstarts negotiations?
Well, I’ve been looking for a way to get these negotiations jumpstarted and if this does it that would be great. We’ll see, though.
Have you received calls from players today?
Have I? Yes. I get calls from players all the time and I’m reasonably certain this day is not likely to be different than others and that there will be a number [of calls] that have come in while I’m down here with all of you. A number of players will ask why I’m not returning their calls. They seem to think I work for them, so we will see.
Are you encouraged?
I think it’s always good to get another proposal and I hope after we digest it we’ll think it’s a place from which we can go forward. I’m just not prepared to comment on it beyond that yet.
Do you feel obligated to come back with some kind of response?

If there is a response we can make that will advance the process, of course we will.
Is there a case in which you do not?
I’m not going to speculate on that at all until we’ve had an opportunity to go through it.
What do you do now?

I go back upstairs, I assemble my staff, and we begin to go through the proposal point by point and then we begin to reach out to the players, talk to them and figure out what we do from here. It could be that there will be a bunch of questions. It could be that we have telephone contact.
Was the proposal considered one that will expire as the previous proposal did on Sept. 15?
My memory is that it’s predicated on a full season, which they believe must start by early November if you’re going to do that. That’s what they said.
Gary said long-term. Can you tell us how long?
I’m not sure precisely what it is. It’s at least six years in their proposal.