Thursday, September 09, 2004

NHL disappointed

NHL 'extremely disappointed' by proposal

CANADIAN PRESS

The NHL Players' Association delivered its first proposal since last October to the NHL on Thursday but it did little to avoid the looming lockout.

The league was not impressed by the union's offer, which did not include a salary cap.

"We are extremely disappointed with what the union presented to us today," Bill Daly, the NHL's executive vice-president, said in a statement. "Not only did the union's proposal fail to move the process forward toward a resolution but, in fact, represented a step backwards in the process."

Daly added that "no further meetings are scheduled at this point."

Still, the new offer may score the Players' Association some points in the public relations war by making the union look willing to negotiate as the NHL prepares to play the heavy in the labour dispute, possibly triggering a lockout next week.

The collective bargaining agreement expires Wednesday at midnight EDT.

The NHLPA's executive committee joined executive director Bob Goodenow, associate counsel Ian Pulver, outside counsel John McCambridge and Saskin for Thursday's meeting, which began at 1 p.m. EDT and ended at 5:10 p.m. in downtown Toronto.

The committee, made up of active NHL players, consists of president Trevor Linden, vice-presidents Bob Boughner, Vincent Damphousse, Daniel Alfredsson, Bill Guerin, Trent Klatt and Arturs Irbe.

Alfredsson and Guerin were not there because of the World Cup.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly were joined on the league side by owners from their executive committee, including Calgary Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss (chairman of the board), Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (chairman of the finance committee), as well as Nashville Predators owner Craig Leopold, Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Minnesota Wild chairman Bob Naegele and New Jersey Devils CEO and GM Lou Lamoriello.

It was the first time players and owners were at a negotiating session since Oct. 1, when the NHLPA made its last proposal (although the league claims it was June 2003). The NHLPA proposed a system at that time that included a luxury tax, revenue sharing, a one-time five per cent rollback in salaries and some changes to the entry-level system. It was quickly rejected by the league.

"As we predicted, two weeks ago in Ottawa, the union has simply repackaged its original unacceptable and ineffective proposal from 15 months ago — and even watered it down. Even under the union's modelling and projections, which we do not agree with or accept, more than half of our clubs would still lose money and nearly a third of the clubs would still lose in excess of $10 million (all funds US) each season.

"Nothing more clearly demonstrates the union's unwillingness to acknowledge or meaningfully address this league's problems than this recycled proposal."

The league offered six new "concepts" July 25 but they were rejected by the union Aug. 17.

The current collective agreement, twice renewed over 10 years, has seen salaries grow from an average of $733,000 in 1994-95 to $1.83 million in 2003-04. League-wide revenues have also risen during that span, but the NHL says not at the same pace. In fact, the league says it lost $273 million in 2002-03.

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