NEW YORK (AP) — While the NHL and its players now agree on what qualifies as hockey-related revenue, the two sides still haven't figured out how to split up the money the sport generates.
With only three days remaining to work out a new deal before NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman follows through on a vow to lock out the players for the second time in eight years, league executives returned to the bargaining table with the union on Wednesday and traded new proposals.
The owners weren't particularly pleased with the new offer they received — with Bettman saying it wasn't much different from earlier proposals — and they ended up countering with one the commissioner said was drafted on the fly Wednesday.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, speaking for the second time Wednesday before a meeting with several hundred players, wasn't overly impressed with what he was given, either.
"We did not make a proposal which mirrored the owners' proposal," Fehr said. "We did not say let's go back to when we didn't have a salary cap. We said, 'Look, there is a meaningful disparity in revenue between the teams, and in recognition of that, there is a way we think we can fix the system so we don't end up in the same problem all over again.
"If you look at what happened in all the cap sports ... it doesn't matter what the sport is, and it doesn't matter what the claimed economics are, the proposal is always the same: it is always players will take a lot less money, and if not we will lock you out. It's regrettable, but that is the world we seem to live in."
After the players made their offer Wednesday morning, Bettman met with Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, and Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames to craft a new NHL offer that was handed back to the players' association with a shelf life on it.
"We made clear in presenting the proposal that this proposal was intended to lead to a deal before the weekend," Bettman said after the nearly three-hour meeting, "and that if in fact a deal was not achievable, what we had proposed would be off the table. We were quite clear on that."
After not meeting face to face since last Friday, the sides gathered at the league office before the NHLPA held player meetings later at a New York hotel. The NHL board of governors will convene Thursday with Bettman, while the union holds a second day of discussions with more than 250 players.
This was the first formal session since Aug. 31. No new meetings were immediately scheduled, but both sides expected to talk again no later than Thursday after both sides' internal meetings conclude.
Fehr said the union's new proposal was "consistent" with the last one it submitted. The league responded with a time-sensitive counter, and Fehr, despite the developments, admitted he does not "know whether this will lead to anything."
"Our proposal was made with the same principles that we have always had in mind and those are that we didn't see any reason — given the seven years of record revenue growth and enormous concessions the players made the last time — to have an absolute reduction in player salaries," Fehr said. "They are prepared to have their share fall over time as revenues grow, and that we hope to partner with the large revenue teams in terms of providing whatever assistance to franchises may be called for generally under revenue sharing."
The NHL again came up from their original offer of 43 percent of hockey-related revenues going to the players. In an earlier proposal before Wednesday, the NHL pushed it up to 46 percent, and Bettman said the new offer was even higher without giving a specific number.
"We concluded that their proposal wasn't going to get us anywhere," Bettman said. "With time running short, we actually crafted a new proposal that is different than the other proposals because it is much simplified."
In the expiring CBA, the players were given 57 percent of the total. The definition of hockey-related revenues wasn't changed from the current deal.
"If the players had made proposals which mirrored the owners, what we would've said is we want to increase to 71 percent, then we'll only take 68 percent — that is the equivalent of their 46 percent proposal," Fehr said. "The equivalent of today's proposal would be to say is all we want is 67 percent."