ROSEMONT, Ill. | Donald Fehr spoke to a few members of the media Friday night at AllState Arena during the first intermission of the Champs for Charity exhibition hockey game.
Fehr spoke to The Washington Times, ESPN The Magazine, The Associated Press, The Chicago Sun-Times, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, The Chicago Tribune and The Daily Herald. Here is the full transcript:
On cancellation of November games
“Nothing they’ve done over the past several weeks is very much of a surprise. One thing sort of follows another; it looks like more or less what’s been done in the other disputes in the other sports. It’s a shame, I think. And hopefully we’ll finally get down to serious negotiations one of these days. But we’re not there yet.”
What will it take to get to serious negotiations?
“Somebody has to be willing to talk about things seriously. So far, the league’s position is essentially, we got billions of dollars from the players last time, and we’ve had nothing but record revenues ever since, so let’s try go and get another billion or two. And that’s hard. It’s really hard to do. I’ll just ask all of you: What is the articulated reason the concessions are being asked for. Except, well, this is what happened in basketball. OK, so? Or the other one is, we want an opportunity for everybody to make a fair profit. What’s a fair profit? Who’s not making it and if that’s the issue, why is the proposal to lower salaries on Toronto at the same time you do it on Phoenix?”
Talk to these guys in Chicago?
“There was a lunch meeting with maybe two-thirds of them today.”
Message to them?
“First of all, I never talk about internal communications with players. Never have, so I’m not going to do it now. They can, it’s up to them. But I work for them, not the other way around. The second thing is, what I did was to update them on what happened in negotiations, what it was like to be in meetings, what we expect to happen next. There were a couple players there who had been in the meetings. They added their own perspective and their own observations. And then we discussed what’s going to happen going forward. The only thing I’ll say about the conversation is that I repeatedly get asked: What is there in the NHL’s offer which moves in our direction? And my problem is all I can do is shrug my shoulders. Because I don’t know what it is.”
Understanding that NHL only wants you to come to table to work off its deal?
“That was what it has been the last 10 days. Maybe it’ll change. We’ve offered to meet repeatedly without preconditions. Happy to talk about their proposals, but that’s not the only thing.”
Don’t anticipate making your own offer?
“The last three were made by us. But that doesn’t mean that if we have another brilliant idea, we’re going to keep quiet. We won’t. Nobody stands on ceremony on our side of the table.”
Could this turn into another ‘04-05 and miss whole season?
“I hope that’s premature discussion, and we certainly hope it isn’t true. As a personal matter, I don’t see any reason for it. But I didn’t see a reason to begin to talk about a lockout last January. And I didn’t see a reason to make a proposal off the bat for another 24 percent in salary reductions or any of the rest of it. But I didn’t see a reason for the NFL to lock out its officials, either.”
Will there come a time when players have to push for deal?
“I don’t discuss that. From the players’ standpoint, two things. One, if you want to know what players think, you need to ask players. They speak for themselves. Secondly, what players want is a fair deal, an equitable deal. One that they can believe is even-handed and can set the stage for the future so we don’t have to go through this every few years. It’s enough already.
If Winter Classic is canceled – how does that change things?
“It reinforces the notion that the NHL isn’t interested in the money. I hope they don’t do it.”
How do you think fans are feeling right now?
“I’m sure that the fans look at it on two different levels. At the initial level, they’re frustrated. They want to watch, they want to go, they want to root. They identify with the players, and that’s something that everybody wants to continue. On a secondary basis, depending on the level of interest that an individual fan has and the level of knowledge, they may have an opinion on the specifics of the dispute. I think there’s a general understanding out there that this is about the NHL owners insisting on concessionary bargaining. But beyond that I think it’s a fan-by-fan basis and a market-by-market basis. Clearly they’re going to be frustrated, clearly they’re going to be upset. And I just hope we can get it done so that frustration ends as soon as possible.”
NHL working on its own timeline?
“I hope that’s not the case, but that’s consistent with what they’ve done. If you look at the NBA negotiations, the NBA owners made moves and how they initially asked for much more massive concessions than the eventual deal was and so on, it’s pretty easy to construct that argument. But I don’t speak for them. You can ask Gary that.”
Artificial cancellation like artificial deadlines?
“First of all, all the deadlines that have been imposed have been NHL-imposed. As we said at the beginning, we never saw a reason for a lockout to start with. Keep negotiating and a lockout ought to be treated the way players treat the strike, which is an absolute last resort. Not a bargaining tactic of first resort, which is what it was here and what it was in basketball and what it was in football and what it was with the football officials. And that’s the first thing. Secondly, all I can tell you is that when a deal is reached, we hope both sides make the maximum effort to put back together the largest number of games that are physically possible to do, consistent with the logistics of that and player safety.
Chance of 82 games out?
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I would like to believe not, but we’ve got a contract to negotiate first. That’s the second question, not the first one.”
Talk to NHL tomorrow?
“We talk to them regularly. There’s regular, ongoing communication. There was today.”
“It depends on the day. They’re professional negotiators and so are we. It depends on the day. Sometimes you get heated moments in which voices are raised and all the rest of it. Other times you don’t. But you can have very civil, formally polite negotiations which, nevertheless don’t go anywhere.”