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Harrison on CBA talks: 'Top of hill to the bottom'

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Canes defenseman Jay Harrison believed the NHL and NHLPA was on the verge of an agreement on a CBA Thursday night that would end the lockout, the nightmare.

And then ...

"I was surprised by how quickly it turned around," Harrison said Friday. "It was top of the hill to the bottom."

The NHL's rejection of the union's CBA counter-proposal Thursday has everyone wondering what happens next. Harrison was one of the players who was on an hour-long conference call with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr later Thursday night, when Fehr updated the members on the series of meetings in New York, how everything fell apart -- seemingly in a matter of minutes -- and what the next step or steps might be.

That apparently does not include collective bargaining meetings Friday or on the weekend, Harrison said. The next move, he said, would be made by the league.

"It was informational, about the nature of how things had gone," Harrison said of the players' conference call. "A lot of things had happened in the last week that the guys as a membership hadn't been privvy to.

"There was time for guys to talk about the future and what we want to do and how we want to react. The big thing you can learn from Don (Fehr) is to step back and reflect and then move forward. You kind of separate yourself from the emotion of the moment and you regroup and you decide on your best course of action."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was the emotional one Thursday night. He said Fehr had made misleading comments to the media and "spinning us all into an emotional frenzy."

A group of owners and players met Tuesday and Wednedsay in New York with Bettman and Fehr out of the room. The sessions Tuesday were said to be productive, and Bettman said he then gave a generally optimistic update to the NHL's board of governors on Wednesday morning.

The owner/player meetings resumed after the board meeting, and with growing tension as the players apparently brought up other CBA issues that the owners' side did not anticipate. The players then said they wanted Fehr again involved for Thursday's meetings, which did not set well with the owners.

"I'm kind of a little disappointing after such huge strides, with both sides reporting how pleased they were, to within 24 hours having a complete change in mood, perspective, outlook, everything," Harrison said.

The league said it is not flexible on its proposals for a 10-year CBA with an opt-out after eight years, new contract lengths of  five years, and on compliance issues. An angry Bettman said Thursday night the league's proposal to use $300 million to "make whole" players contracts in deferred compensation -- now being called "transition payments" -- had been withdrawn.

The union proposed an eight-year CBA with opt-out after six years and contract lengths of eight years. That angered Bettman, who said the league had sought a yes or no answer from the union on the league's offer, not more negotiation.

"In a cap system the only leverage you have is your individual contract rights, so we hold those with great pride," Harrison said. "We feel we have addressed some of the issues they have with the contracting such as the back-diving contracts, and we've come in their direction as far as length of contract, as well.

"We've moved. We moved twice again over the past three days in their direction. To say we're not looking to make an agreement, I don't sense that."

Despite the pessimism of Thursday night, Harrison believes hockey will be played this season. It could be a 48-game season, but hockey will be played.

"I still expect to play hockey. There's still too much to be lost," he said. "I'll believe that to the day it's not."

 

 

 

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5 Year Contract Limit

If that is a non-negotiable why were the long contracts awarded just prior to the lockout?

5 year contracts more complicated than it appears on surface

There is literally an ant hill separating both sides.  Both sides seem contact to die on that ant hill for inexplicable reasons.  The true impact of a 5 year maximum, with 7 year maximum for a teams own UFAs is unknowable.  It could potentially drive up the price per year of the superstars while then driving down the salaries of the remaining players.

  Superstars will always be able to command the highest salaries.  So that concern is legitimate. It's equally feasible that a 5 year maximum would level out the difference between many teams salaries and make the players who are very, very good but not stars even more valuable.  

   Statistically, the number is so small that the NHL owners could easily agree to a 7 year maximum and 9 year maximum for a team's own UFAs without any discernible economic consequence.  An eight year CBA with 2 year renewal is simply good business.

   The idea that adults can't figure this out is disheartening.  Fehr has completely alienated the owners.  They feel he is a clown who shows up late and is more concerned about his legacy than working out a deal.  I am not saying the owners are correct; but it is clear that is how they view him.  The players, and I think accurately, believe Bettman is a knave who has no regard for his negative impact on the NHL brand.  Bettman and the owners have more power and leverage than the players, which is a given.  Bettman's persona and the personality he conveys makes him the wrong messanger.  

   The messangers on both sides are undermining the message.  Neither can can hear the words being spoken because they distrust the lead spokesman.  Silly as it is, a $3.3 billion dollar industry is being cripped by the inability of two sides to recognize they are literally inches apart.

Maybe

But again, in the big picture, prior to the last CBA,  in 2003-2004 there were less than 10 contracts longer than 5 years...  And the players were doing fine.  The long term contracts came about when small owners like ours wanted to lock down their key players obtained in drafts prior to big money teams poaching them, and also from big money teams wanting to win players to their team with the big bucks, but needing a long term to put average cap hit figures on the cap friendly side.

The league needs to realize, their 5% variance rules on contracts would liely mean owners wouldnp;t sign too many longer term deals for free agents anyways--and 7 years for home teams solves the main issues.

I also think 5 year limits means there would be more free agents available each year--something the longer term contracts have hindered.  That means more competition for key players, which means the players will make the big bucks anyway.  And even with 5 year limits, if players play like they are supposed to, nothing stops the owners from extending or offering new contracts.

The only reason players want longer terms is greed and guaranteed contracts.  they like knowing they can sign long term deal, then get paid no matter what.  Like Rick Dipietro--has he earned a tenth of his ridiculous contract?? But it's a ridiculous albatross around the team's neck.  But yes, they offered it to the player, so they are stuck with it.  But other than guarateeing players get money whether they earn it or not, which of course the players love, the 5 year limit will not change at all how much these guys can make--if they can play...  That's the difference. 

The five year limit is the owners trying to gain some measure of control back from the players getting guarateed contracts.  And in that regard, it seems very fair...

Glass half full

Is now empty. Everyone loses with a cancelled season. This STH hopes it's cancelled before Christmas--could use the money to go shopping.

Greedy few, Bob?  Is your

Greedy few, Bob?  Is your desire to watch hockey sufficient to essentially demand that the players take an across-the-board 20% pay cut?  Because that's exactly what a cut from 60% of revenue to 50% of revenue represents.

Contract length is just one issue.  The other is the "make whole" issue where the players actually expect the owners to satisfy their tort contract with existing players to pay them precisely what the contracts specify.

Bad info

Players had 57% not 60% in their last CBA.  But, for the most part, they never saw the full value of their contracts anyway--the league held part of their salary in abeyance under escrow until league HRR was determined, and if players contracted salaries were higher than 57% of revenues, then they did not receive the full value anyway...

 

So the drop in salary is nowhere near as bad as you make it seem.  but given the damage being done to the league, because of this lockout, everyones pay will go down, no matter what contracts are signed...  HRR will decrease.

Read up!

Read up on the negotiations, Kent.  Fehr agreed to the revenue split and the make whole provision.  The deal blew up over the length of contracts, the length of the agreement and the details of how the players share would work this season. 

A five year limit on contracts as well as a 10 year CBA is good for the league, so I'm for it.  Sure, the high end players will suffer in this case, but I'm not worried about those guys.  They'll come out rich anyway.  The depth guys are the ones getting jobbed by Fehr, the agents and the big money players.

Only 1/2

Of the 89 only 1/2 have more than 5yrs on there contract with there team...If I'm the 90% of the rest of the NHLPA 20% off of what I make playing Hockey for a living beats NOT playing hockey for millions ,and it's NOT even debatable the NHLPA is about to crack with so few demanding so much which more is holding up the entire CBA negotiations.

By definition, if one side

By definition, if one side says the only acceptable answer in a negotiation is "yes or no," then that side is not negotiating but rather issuing ultimatums.  That response alone would be a strong piece of evidence in a court should the players decide to decertify and sue the NHL in Canadian labor court.

C'mon....

The NHL basically said, we'll give you this if you give us that.  The NHLPA said thanks, but we want more than that.  No way that means squat in court.

Nice Party Line Jay

But do you honestly care that contracts would be limited to 5 years, 7 if you stay with the same team??  Do you really think that limit affects more than 10-15% of all the players???

 

Doesn't it seem silly for the union, which is supposed to represent everyone, not just the top tier stars, to hold out for 1 to 3 years longer contract lengths, that again, few ever get??

Bob Mackenzie

Twitter feed has only 89 player's with more than 5yr deals holding up the new deal...Time to say tough sh>>> and cross the picket line ,if it's only the greedy few.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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