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NHL labor negotiations about to begin
“I don’t see why not,” he said. “That’s obviously what everyone wants.”
Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the Stanley Cup finals last month that he believes the labor scene is different this time around. One big change is that the players are now being led by Fehr, the former head of the powerful baseball union.
Fehr is working with a group that was in disarray following the lockout and went through several changes in leadership including a scandal that led to the demise of former executive director Ted Saskin, who was accused of ordering spying of player e-mail.
Fehr was brought in as an adviser before becoming the union’s head about a year and a half ago. He has since spent time catching up on hockey and his members’ needs. He has been having informal discussions with Bettman for some time.
“From our standpoint, the starting place is the players made enormous concessions the last time around,” Fehr said. “The second item that comes to mind is the game generates a lot more revenue than it did before. And you put those two things together, it ought to point you in the direction as to where this negotiation should go.”
Bettman said last month that the league had record revenues in excess of $3.1 billion, but he refused to say how much of that was profit. How to divide the revenue is a huge issue, with owners wanting to cut the players’ share from 57 percent.
“We want to keep it where it is and they want to probably bring it down,” Phoenix’s Shane Doan said. “I understand that’s the way it is. … Everybody wants more. I’m sure they do, too. It’s part of labor. That’s the way it is.”
How deep the sides dig in could go a long way toward determining whether the NHL becomes the third major sports league in the past two years to go through a work stoppage. The NBA played a shortened season with a condensed schedule after a labor dispute pushed the start of the season back to late December, and the NFL went through a lockout that wiped out most of the offseason training program a year ago and delayed training camp.
Fehr is already showing signs he won’t be a pushover.
The union scuttled the NHL’s plans to realign and switch from two three-division conferences to four seven- or eight-team conferences in January, because it was not consulted.
Another issue is the Olympics.
The players want to compete. Bettman has long made it clear that he doesn’t see the benefit in it for the league, even though it provides many players to the Olympics right in the midst of the NHL season.
For now, the league wasn’t conceding that a stoppage is inevitable.
“I don’t know if it’s inevitable,” Doan said. “That threat’s there. That’s what’s going to get everything done. Everything tends to go to the deadline of what’s going to cost people the most. We’ll just have to deal with that.”
Notes: Toews said he’s no longer experiencing any symptoms after missing the final 22 regular-season games because of a concussion. “I’m feeling great,” he said. He also said he texted teammate Patrick Kane after photos of the young star partying in Madison, Wis., surfaced on the Internet after the season. He was also arrested in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., three years ago after an altercation with a cab driver. “People want to get to know him off the ice, see what he’s like, and the next thing you know he’s under a microscope,” Toews said. “There’s a lot of 23-, 24-year-old kids out there having a great time, and they don’t have to worry about that sort of thing. He does. It’s tough. I know it’s tough on him. … His teammates support him. Bringing him back to focusing on hockey, that’s the main thing we want him to do.”
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