NHL lockout 2012: Mediator gets league, union back together

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Trust has become a major impediment in the talks that appear to have been rescued to some extent by Beckenbaugh.

On Thursday morning, the sides solved a problem that arose regarding the reporting by clubs of hockey-related revenue, and how both sides sign off on the figures at the end of the fiscal year. The union felt the language had been changed without proper notification. That dispute was ended in about an hour, but clearly discord was present in the talks.

Another small meeting, the second of the day without union head Donald Fehr, addressed the pension plan. That one lasted just under two hours and marked the last time the sides met this week.

The players’ association held a late Thursday afternoon conference call to initiate its second vote on the disclaimer of interest.

A sense of progress might be why the union didn’t declare the disclaimer Wednesday, but any optimism created after the deadline passed has taken several hits since.

The NHLPA filed a motion in federal court in New York seeking to dismiss the league’s suit to have the lockout declared legal. The NHL sued the union in mid-December, figuring the players were about to submit their own complaint against the league.

But the union argued that the NHL is using this suit “to force the players to remain in a union. Not only is it virtually unheard of for an employer to insist on the unionization of its employees, it is also directly contradicted by the rights guaranteed to employees under … the National Labor Relations Act.”

The court scheduled a status conference for the sides on Monday.

The sides have traded four proposals in the past week — two by each side — but none has gained enough traction. Getting an agreement on a pension plan would likely go a long way toward a deal that would put hockey back on the ice.

Fehr believed a plan for a players-funded pension was established before talks blew up in early December. That apparently wasn’t the case, or the NHL changed its offer regarding the pension in exchange for agreeing to other things the union wanted.

The salary-cap number for the second year of the deal — the 2013-14 season — hasn’t been agreed to, and is another major point of contention. The league is pushing for a $60 million cap, while the union wants it to be $65 million with a floor of $44 million.

In return for the higher cap, players would be willing to forgo a cap on escrow.

Other issues still needing resolution include the maximum length of player contracts, the yearly variance in salary of those individual deals, and how long the CBA should be in effect.

Both sides seem content on it lasting for 10 years, but they have different opinions on whether an opt-out should be allowed to be exercised after seven years or eight.

Last season, the NHL posted record revenues of $3.3 billion. The sides seem likely to agree on a 50-50 split of the pot in any new deal.

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