A new NHL labor deal might not be as far off as it seems.
Steve Fehr, special counsel to the NHL Players’ Association, believes the collective bargaining agreement can be wrapped up in a hurry once the sides make a breakthrough in negotiations.
“One thing (deputy commissioner) Bill Daly and I agree upon is that when the moment is right the deal could be done very quickly,” Fehr said Monday during a panel discussion at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference. “One day, three days or whatever.”
Asked later if he agreed with that assertion, Daly replied: “I hope he’s right.”
Representatives from the NHL and NHLPA have met seven of the last nine days, but no future talks are planned. Fehr told the panel that three issues remain to be solved: The split of money, player contract rights and who pays for the damage caused by the lockout.
The contract issue in particular has flared up recently, with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sounding off on that topic to reporters Monday. The NHL has proposed changes to entry-level deals, arbitration, free agency and contract limits.
“The question I’d ask is: Why would we change that?” Crosby said. “I think we all think it’s the most competitive league in the world. So why would you go and change that, the way contracts go and the way teams can operate?”
Fehr and Daly discussed the player rights issue during a meeting Sunday afternoon, and the union leader doesn’t believe it will ultimately keep them from striking a deal.
“We’re not making any real progress in those areas,” Fehr said. “It’s kind of hard to believe anyone’s going to drive the industry bus off a cliff over things like that, but I’ve seen things before that surprise me.”
On a more positive note, he indicated that the sides were “fairly close” to an agreement on revenue sharing. It’s believed the NHL is willing to bump the annual pot to $220 million from its current position of $140 million.
The NHL lockout started in mid-September and forced the cancellation of all regular-season games through Nov. 30. A deal likely would need to be struck early next week for a shortened season to begin Dec. 1.
On Monday, Fehr was joined on the labor issues panel by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, New York Giants assistant GM Kevin Abrams and Toronto Raptors vice president Ed Stefanski.
Most of the talk centered on the NHL negotiations, which kept Burke uncharacteristically quiet because team officials can be fined up to $1 million for speaking about the CBA. At one point, he quipped: “This is painful.”
Fehr also spoke of his experiences with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, where he earned the nickname “Designated Optimist” during the 2002 talks, and observed that lockouts seem to have become unavoidable in sports with a salary cap.
“It’s almost as if in the capped sports it’s become a rewriting of the Hippocratic Oath,” Fehr said. “Instead of ‘first, do no harm,’ it’s first lockout and then we’ll see what happens. I guess they’ve decided they can live with how the fans feel about it and they’re not going to be shy about doing it.”
He also hinted that NHL owners might not be taking the union seriously during these negotiations.
“It does remind me certainly of some disputes long ago in baseball,” Fehr said. “In some ways, it reminds me of baseball in the ’80s and maybe the early ’90s before the baseball owners, in our view, accepted that the union was here to stay and wanted to make a deal with the union as opposed to fighting with the union.
A new NHL labor deal might not be as far off as it seems.
Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT
Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.
Brewers rally to clip Pirates
Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.
Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon
The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897. Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.
UPJ takes one, drops second
John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.
Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid
Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.
Drama lacking sans Tiger
If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
The course was there in all its splendor.
Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets
Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pirates power past Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.
Jackets preparing for Game 2
The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.
- Local Sports Briefs
- More Sports Headlines
- Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT