ST. LOUIS (HockeyStL) -- It’s never looked more bleak for the hockey season.
Talks between the players union and the owners broke down last night. The owners say that everything they’ve offered up to this point in the negotiations is now off the table. It’s unclear when the two sides will get together and meet again, but union head Donald Fehr says he doesn’t expect a meeting before the end of the weekend.
Before yesterday, the two sides were barely saying anything publicly about the negotiations. When Fehr finally suggested the two sides were close to an agreement, Commissioner Gary Bettman lashed out. Bettman said, "I find it absolutely incomprehensible he'd do that.”
The owners wanted a “yes or no” answer on three issues they believe are at the core of the negotiations; a five year contract term limit, the 10 year length of the collective bargaining agreement, and the transition rules. The union came back with different proposals on each of those issues, and that’s when Bettman and the owners snapped.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the owners are willing to “die on the hill” for those three issues.
So now they’re not even talking. If they really want to save the season, what’s left of it, wouldn’t you think they’d at least keep talking? Does it do either side any good to get angry and refuse to continue the discussion? Clearly, the two sides distrust each other now and finding an agreement will be more difficult than ever.
I still believe they’ll get something done. The NHL simply can’t afford to lose the entire season. Too many people are losing too much money. There are several franchises in jeopardy already, and the loss of an entire season could be devastating.
The league hasn’t yet set a drop dead date, though Bettman says he can’t imagine having an abbreviated season of less than 48 games. There is still time to make that happen, but the two sides need to get over their anger and get back to the bargaining table. Nothing can get settled while both sides are pouting.