So much for optimism, cautious or otherwise.
Responding to a proposal made Tuesday by the NHL on a collective bargaining agreement, the NHLPA put forth three counter-proposals on the division of hockey-related reveue Thursday. All were rejected by the NHL and left commissioner Gary Bettman saying he was "thoroughly disappointed."
On Tuesday, the NHL forwarded a proposal that includes a 50-50 split in all hockey related revenue (HRR) and no rollback in salary. Bettman said the offer was contingent on the season starting Nov. 2, enabling the league's teams to salvage a full 82-game season.
The union took Wednesday to analyze the offer and craft its response for Thursday's meeting in Toronto. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said one of the union's offers was to move to a 50-50 HRR split if all player contracts that had been signed were fully honored.
The other two proposals also would move the HRR split to 50-50 but over the course of the five-year CBA.
Noting the rejection of the offers by the NHL, Fehr said, "Today was not a good day. It could have been but it wasn't."
After the one-hour session, Bettman told reporters the union offers on players share Thursday were just variations of the NHLPA's initial proposal and was "in many ways a step backward" in the labor talks.
"It's clear we're not talking the same language at all in terms of what they came back to us with," Bettman said. "I am, to say the least, thoroughly disappointed."
Bettman offered no details about the NHLPA proposals other than saying the players' salaries would have a small increase in the first year of the CBA. He also said none of the NHLPA offers "even began to approach 50-50."
Bettman said Thursday's meeting only lasted an hour because "there was really nothing there." Asked what the next step would be, he said he didn't know, adding, "I'm totally discouraged."
Under the previous CBA, the players received 57 percent of hockey-related revenue -- about $1.88 billion last season. A reduction to 50 percent would be about $1.6 billion in a six-year CBA if the league continued to grow as it has the past seven years.
Bettman said Thursday that the NHL offer made Tuesday was "the best that we can do."
"We gave it our best shot. It is our best offer," he said.
The CBA expired Sept. 15, and the league then locked out the players -- the third work stoppage's of Bettman's tenure as commissioner. The league later canceled all preseason games, then on Oct. 4 announced the first two weeks of the regular season -- Oct. 11 through Oct. 24 -- had been canceled.
Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal was among the 18 NHL players who attended Thursday's meeting, along with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Staal on Wednesday said he was optimistic about the two sides being able to "hammer" out an agreement.
Joining Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly were four NHL owners -- Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Craig Leipold (Minnesota Wild), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames) and Ted Leonsis (Washington Capitals).