Let’s get this straight.
The chief negotiators for the NHL and its players union have not scheduled talks to salvage an 82-game season – Gary Bettman’s deadline is Thursday, by the way -- but team owners and general managers were secretly granted permission to speak to their players about the league’s latest proposal to the union.
“Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings,” NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr told The Associated Press. “No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot.”
Less than a month after Red Wings executive Jim Devellano was fined $250,000 for discussing the labor negotiations with a member of the media, the NHL issued a memo to team management stating there was a two-day window – last Thursday and Friday – that allowed team owners and general managers to answer any questions players had about the NHL’s 50-50 proposal, which was made the previous Tuesday and rejected by the players two days later.
The players’ union was unaware of the memo at the time.
In other words, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who sat in on negotiations in Toronto last week, was granted permission to speak with his players, but with very strict guidelines, as described below in a memo obtained and re-printed by Yahoo! Sports:
We understand that some of you are being contacted by one or more of your Players and that your inability to respond substantively is creating some awkwardness in your relationships.
Accordingly, and only between now and 11:59 pm (local time) on Friday night (10/19), the NHL By-Law 17.17 prohibition will not be applied to conversations that result from you being contacted by your Players -- PROVIDED, THAT ANY SUCH CONVERSATIONS ARE STRICTLY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RESTRICTIONS SET FORTH IN THIS MEMORANDUM.
A failure to follow these rules can both set us back in our effort to resolve this work stoppage and cause serious legal problems and will be deemed a violation of NHL By-Law 17.17 (subject to appropriate penalties).
Therefore, please read these rules carefully and be certain that you adhere to them without exception. They have been designed in light of the fact that the NHLPA is, in fact and in law, the sole collective bargaining representative of the Players and that any effort to motivate the Players must be to have them act through their union, not instead of or in opposition to it.
As a matter of labor law you are permitted to express the views and opinions of the Club and the League concerning the proposal currently on the table.
YOU MAY NOT: "Negotiate" with a Player. This means you may not explore alternatives or variations to the proposals on the table from either side because that would be prohibited "direct dealing". You may not ask "What do you want?" or "What do the Players want?" or "What should the League propose?"
If a Player tells you that he or others are trying to find a different approach, he should be told that all ideas and suggestions should be presented to the Union and not directly to you or anyone else in the League except through the Union. You may not ask him what he or others have in mind.
If he volunteers what he has in mind you should not respond positively or negatively or ask any questions but instead refer him to the NHLPA. Likewise, you may not suggest hypothetical proposals that the League might make in the future or that the League might entertain from the Union.
Let’s get this straight.