- Last Updated: 1:07 PM, July 19, 2012
- Posted: 2:01 AM, July 19, 2012
The language spoken in the conference room at the NHL’s Sixth Avenue office yesterday was giveback; specifically, the NHLPA asking the league to supply financial information that would support the position that the players accept a 22-percent reduction of their share of the gross plus severe systemic restrictions as outlined in the collective bargaining proposal submitted to the union on Friday.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and his negotiating committee were happy to oblige in a process that will continue when the parties reconvene today for the second of three consecutive days of meetings.
This, of course, brings up the question whether the parameters of the CBA negotiations have irrevocably been established as just a matter of how much the players will be willing/forced to give back in order to avoid a lockout and the threat of canceled season just seven years after losing 2004-05.
“I hope not,” executive director Don Fehr said when asked that very question. “We will see how that goes.”
Fehr would not elaborate on the league’s proposal, though he did confirm that the league “[has] asked for a reduction in the players’ share.”
When asked the union’s immediate response to that request, the executive director said, “I think that the overall reaction to the kind of reductions that are contemplated should be obvious.”
Yesterday’s meeting that was attended by 15 players, including Rangers’ player representative Brandon Dubinsky and teammate Henrik Lundqvist, lasted approximately 2 1/2 hours and was characterized by one and all as “cordial.”
That’s about as far as Bettman would go in disclosing what took place behind closed doors.
“I’m not going to disclose what happened inside the room because I don’t believe it’s constructive to the process, but obviously we’ve made some proposals we believe need some serious consideration to move forward,” the commissioner said. “I assume Don will do what’s appropriate for the players.
“I’m focused on making a deal, not what would happen on Sept. 15 [when the current CBA expires] if we don’t have a deal.”
Dubinsky and Canucks player representative Manny Malhotra echoed Fehr’s response of “I hope not” when asked about whether givebacks would become a permanent part of the negotiating landscape.
“We’ll see at the end,” Malhotra said. “Don knows what to expect. The first thing he told us was that this would be a long and arduous process. You don’t want to get wrapped up in it emotionally on a daily basis.”
Asked what his response would be to having to take a rollback in order to effect an orderly reduction of the cap — and seven years after agreeing to an unprecedented 24-percent rollback in order to get back on the ice for 2005-06 — Malhotra said, “There’s no question what my response would be.”
Malhotra also said he believes the players are better prepared for the dialog than they were in 2004-05 when Bob Goodenow led the union.
“I think we’re more mature as a group and far more united at this point than we were then,” Malhotra said. “We’re in a far better spot as far as the information that’s been passed around and our understanding of it.”
Dubinsky, who was not in the league for the last lockout, said the union requires comprehensive financial information in order to respond intelligently to the league’s proposal.
“I hope that’s not the case, but we don’t have the numbers to contradict the league,” he said. “We’re trying to gather as much information as possible so we can make the most intelligent judgments and arguments possible.
“There’s no reason to panic.”
Fehr would not engage in hypotheticals or hyperbole in discussing the path that lies ahead. The Players’ Association leader said that at “the appropriate point” the union would present its own proposal but would not say “whether it would be a counter or one that’s [completely] different.”
“This will move at its own pace; negotiations tend to do that,” said the former longtime director of the MLBPA.
“I don’t engage in bargaining on the basis of hopes and prayers. I deal with what is.”Follow @NYPostsports