Bettman gets emotional over lockout

Darkness is about to descend on the National Hockey League. Again.

NEW YORK — Darkness is about to descend on the National Hockey League. Again.

Reiterating that the season won’t start until there is a new collective bargaining agreement, commissioner Gary Bettman offered an impassioned defence of the league’s stance Thursday as it headed toward its fourth work stoppage in 20 years.

“Listen, nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do, OK?” he said during a news conference. “This is what I do. This is what my life is about in terms of how I spend most of my waking hours. This is really hard.

“And so you only get involved in this situation when you understand what the issues are and you know you’re doing the right thing for the long-term stability of our game and our sport. This is very hard and I feel terrible about it.”

No one is holding out hope that an 11th-hour deal will be struck before the CBA expires Saturday at midnight. Both Bettman and Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, spoke in a manner that made another work stoppage seem inevitable after wrapping up important meetings with their constituents.

They have no plans to return to the bargaining table before the deadline passes.

Instead, it appears as if hockey will enter yet another work stoppage — with a source indicating that pre-season games will start being cancelled as soon as next week. Training camps scheduled to open Sept. 21 will also soon be a casualty, with the first regular- season games not too far behind.

Fehr said the players made large concessions after the entire 2004-05 season was wiped out by a lockout. Since then, overall revenues have grown dramatically.

He asked whether it was fair or equitable that the owners want more concessions and reiterated that they will be the ones choosing to shut the doors.

“The players want to find a way to make an agreement. They want to negotiate until we do,” Fehr, flanked by many of the game’s top players, told a packed news conference.

Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, John Tavares, Zdeno Chara, Henrik Lundqvist, Daniel Alfredsson and Zach Parise were just a handful of the 283 players who turned up in New York for two days of meetings. They emerged presenting a united front and spoke with the same calmness as Fehr, whom they hired in 2010 with the express purpose of getting a good deal in these negotiations.

While the players would rather be preparing for training camp, Crosby indicated that they’re not willing to do it at any cost.

“I know in my case not playing for as long as I did the last year and a half, I obviously want to play,” he said. “But I think you also have to realize that there’s principles here and you have to understand what’s right.

“And I think we believe that what we propose is in that right direction. If you look at both (proposals), yeah they’re definitely different. But if you have a non-biased opinion, you look at the facts, I think our mindset and the direction we’re going is one that seems like it’s a little bit more fair for both sides.”

The sides returned to the negotiating table on Wednesday and each made adjustments to previous proposals.

The owners asked players to cut their share of hockey-related revenue during a six-year proposal. Current industry revenue is pegged at US$3.3 billion annually.

Initially, owners sought to drop the percentage given to players to 43 per cent from the current 57 per cent. They have since amended that to a deal that starts at 49 per cent the first year, drops to 48 per cent the next and is set at 47 per cent for the remaining four.

The NHLPA is offering a package that starts at 54.3 per cent and ends at 52.7 per cent — something Fehr referred to as a “shared sacrifice.”

Bettman noted the average player salary had gone from US$1.45 million to $2.55 million in seven years. The salary cap system won in the last CBA helped create better competitive balance on the ice, according to the commissioner, but he feels there is no getting around the fact “we are paying out too much money.”

He also issued a word of caution about the damage another work stoppage is sure to inflict on the business of hockey.

“Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary wages than what we’re proposing to do to make a deal that we think we need to make,” Bettman said.

During a two-hour board of governors meeting on Thursday afternoon, Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly gave owners a detailed update on negotiations. Afterwards, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, the chairman of the board, put forward a motion for governors to vote on imposing a lockout. It passed unanimously, according to Bettman.

While the commissioner remained committed to meeting at “any time” or “any place,” he questioned whether the union was as motivated to make a deal.

“If you’re dedicated to the negotiating process, you can move this along quickly,” said Bettman. “If, for whatever reason, you’re not interested in making a deal, you drag it out.”

Fehr had levied a similar claim at the NHL just two hours earlier.

“One of the questions that needs to be asked is, if indeed they lock out, if indeed they do do that, (whether) that is reasonably calculated to make a deal more likely or less likely?” he said. “I think you can figure out the answer.”

And so the league is back in a familiar spot, with players and owners in a CBA standoff and neither willing to budge.

When the NHL and NHLPA engaged in this fight eight years ago, it took three months for them to return to the bargaining table after the lockout was imposed. There doesn’t appear to be the same level of animosity this time around, but both sides seem more than ready to show their resolve.

“Because we went through it seven or eight years ago, guys I think were more prepared for it this time,” said Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza. “Guys have been through this before and I think the patience of the players is probably (better). It seemed like they were going to lock us out — it didn’t matter what went on in negotiating — and that’s what’s disappointing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 19-day trial has been set for June 2022 for Chase Freed, who is accused of shooting to death a shopper outside the southside Red Deer Walmart and firing shots at two other people in the parking lot. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man who killed a shopper outside Red Deer Walmart in December 2019 to go to trial in 2022

Chase Freed charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
All adult Albertans to be offered first dose of vaccine by end of June: Premier

Alberta’s premier says the province will be “back to normal” when 72… Continue reading

Black Press Media file photo
Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected

EDMONTON — The head of the Alberta Medical Association says many factors… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Expert says gathering outside Alberta church attended by many conspiracy theorists

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — An expert investigating hate groups says a weekend… Continue reading

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Most Read