A mid-December drop-dead date is being bandied about by some hard-line NHL owners who are threatening to call off the 2004-05 season if no substantive progress has been made toward a collective bargaining agreement.
The owners of the 30-team league locked out their players Sept.15 as training camps for this season were about to open and no new CBA was in place. There have been no talks between the league and the NHL Players Association since Sept.9.
Some powerful owners are said to be incensed that the union has made no effort, in their view, to get negotiations moving. A union source said it made the last proposal, so it should be up to management to bring something new to the table.
Today is the 36th day of the labor dispute, the second in the last 10 years for the league. Players were locked out for 103 days in 1994-95, reducing that season to a 48-game campaign after a new CBA. It had been extended twice since then.
On Tuesday, the league told general managers to free up their arenas for progressive 45-day periods, meaning NHL rinks are available for rent for up to 45 days from today. That extended by two weeks the previous availability period and the extra time will allow some flexibility for building owners. Road shows and concerts generally have lead times of at least six months.
The owners' threatened drop-dead date takes into consideration how long it is estimated it would take to get a detailed CBA finished once the two sides start serious negotiations. It is not thought, at least at this point, that either side trusts the other enough to get a season started with the agreement only partially complete.
The critical issue is "cost certainty," as the league refers to a system that ties player salaries to team income. The union calls that a salary cap and refuses to discuss it, instead offering a plan for a luxury tax. The NHL refuses to discuss that.
But besides the financial aspect of the talks, there are dozens and dozens of other issues that have to be negotiated. Some could be settled (and reportedly already have been) over a cup of coffee; others might take days or even weeks of negotiations. Some analysts estimate it could take six weeks of intense bargaining to get a deal of this magnitude done.
The owners' thinking on a mid-December drop-dead date is that this is the latest possible time when serious talks could begin and still have any hope of squeezing a credible season into 2005. Ten years ago, the owners decided a 45-game season was the least the league could offer and have any credibility; a faster settlement boosted that schedule by three games, but still the 48 games for each team were shoehorned into a 72-day period.
Under the plan now being talked about by some owners, an abbreviated season would have to start no later than Jan.15 and could include as few as 42 of the originally scheduled 82 games. The schedule would have to be completely redone, eliminating inter-conference play and the All-Star Game, scheduled for early February in Atlanta.
The season now slipping away was to have started Oct.13, with the Washington Capitals opening three nights later in Atlanta. Under the latest rolling elimination of games, 355 contests or nearly 30 percent of the schedule have been canceled, with those figures increasing every day.
By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Great discoveries in the world of restaurants and chefs fulfill the quest for delicious food and cooking.
Paul Rondeau dissects the propaganda, media tricks, and other shenanigans targeting our families, faith, and freedom…and even life itself
“Right Angles” explores serious subjects, such as the Islamization of the Middle East and delegitimization of Israel, with humor, candor and a twist.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention