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.
- Pirates cut down by Reds’ Cueto
- Blown leads are troubling trend in series
- Sunnehanna makes changes to tourney week
Penguins finish hot to grab 2-1 series lead
Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive the Penguins from yet another two-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Pirates walk off against Reds to halt home skid
Ike Davis became the first player to hit grand slams for different teams in the same April, and Neil Walker had a winning run single with two outs in the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates twice overcame deficits to beat the Reds 6-5 Monday night.
Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 before Davis’ fourth-inning homer off Mike Leake.
Sitting Bulls bring home national sled hockey title
The Johnstown Sitting Bulls disabled sled hockey team recently won a national championship.
The team, comprised of disabled athletes from Cambria, Somerset, Indiana, Bedford and Blair counties, finished first in the Youth B Division at the USA Hockey National Disabled Hockey Festival held April 11-13 in Marlborough, Mass.
- Local Sports Briefs
Marathon men’s winner has names of victims on bib
The winner of the Boston Marathon men’s race had the names of last year’s victims written in marker on the corners of his race bib.
Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup
Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Football team ends boycott of embattled coach
Minnesota State University-Mankato’s football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner’s absence, will continue in a major role with the team.
- More Sports Headlines