Matthieu Schneider again addressed the media on the continuing crisis of the NHL / NHLPA talks. (At this point, I think crisis can be used.) The special assistant to the executive director is currently heading up negotiations for the players union. Don Fehr is currently in Russia meeting with the European NHL players.
The players, their lawyers, Schneider, et. al have been met for another two days with the owners and their representatives in New York. The owners extrapolated upon the details of their first offer to the union. The NHLPA also got their first batch of the franchise’s financial information from the independent auditors. The first batch totalled some seventy-six thousand pages of material. “ What we got was the first drop — I think it was 76,000 pages. They’re asking for huge concessions … $450 million from players,” Schneider said. “We certainly feel the audited statements are very important to what will eventually be our alternate proposal.”
Seventy-six thousand. Well, either the owners are offering up an unheard of level of financial transparency, OR they’re just trying to bury the players and their negotiating team in a landslide of hard copy. Fehr’s was present for the first batch’s arrival and spoke to the media before he left for Moscow. “It will take us some time to review that information.. digest it, model it, and figure out what the appropriate response is.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman objected to the players even receiving this information. He didn’t believe in the relevancy of this part of the process. The deputy commissioner, Bill Daly spelled out the league’s opinion. “I think the sooner we can get a negotiation over the main financial issues, the better,” Daly said. “And certainly we encourage the Players’ Association to get their arms around that and get back on those issues as quickly as they can, but I think it was more a frustration with the perception that somehow the information is different or new than what the Players’ Association has access to already and had access to for a long time. I don’t think there’s a real mystery, at least vis-a-vis the Players’ Association, with respect to the financial condition of our clubs.” What a nice way of saying ‘We’re not lying, and the players are being stupid.’
The players are being more vocal in the absence of Fehr. Los Angeles Kings winger Kevin Westgarth commented on several topics. He opened up with how the players discussed medical issues with the owners. “It’s all in our best interests. Healthy hockey players are good hockey players.” The media inquired about the process and Westgarth was direct with the media. “We want to work through this as quickly as possible, and you know work it all out.”
At least both sides weren’t considering the lockout just yet. “September 15th isn’t a deadline by any standards.” continued Westgarth. “The owners and Gary would have to initiate a lockout for anything to happen with that date.” Commissioner Daly agreed with him. “Everything is a process. I think that the parties have generally been very cooperative with each other in terms of trying to move this along and move as quickly as possible.” So, everyone is getting along, and the talks are proceeding. Does anyone else see Bettman ending the season already?