June 29, 2012: The NHL and the players’ union open negotiations on a new labour deal by meeting for about 2-1/2 hours. Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly meet with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, union special counsel Steve Fehr and several player reps at the league’s Manhattan offices.
“A lot of different issues were discussed and the meetings were businesslike and appropriate,” Donald Fehr says after the round of negotiations toward a new collective agreement, with the existing deal set to expire Sept. 15.
When told of Bettman’s comments, Fehr interrupts his questioner. “I’m not sure what a ‘short period of time’ means,” says Fehr. “There’s a lot to do. The optimum is to get a deal done as soon as you could. But if there’s some demarcation point, (a date) that it has to be done by, nobody has told us yet.
USA Today also confirms that the league has proposed five-year limits on player contracts, the elimination of salary arbitration and that eligibility for unrestricted free agency be bumped up to 10 seasons from seven.
“We requested further information,” Fehr says. “The initial proposal we are looking hard at.
“We’re not at that stage (to submit a counter) yet. At the appropriate point in time, we’ll make our proposal.”
There are multiple reports coming out of the last round of talks that the owners’ offer includes players’ hockey-related revenues get slashed from 57 per cent to 46 per cent. It is also reported that players would be forced to wait 10 years before becoming unrestricted free agents and that contracts would be limited to five years.
Fehr says the NHLPA would submit a proposal “at the appropriate point in time.” He did not specify when that would be.
Bettman says the league’s offer the previous week was a “serious proposal.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” Bettman says, “and a relatively short time” to get a deal done.
Aug. 14: The NHL Players’ Association presents its first offer during negotiations in Toronto. In its counterproposal to the NHL’s initial offer of July 13, the players call for a redesign of the way revenue is shared between the league and the union.
“We believe that the proposal the players made today, once implemented, can produce a stable industry . . . that can give us a chance to move beyond the recurring labour strife that has plagued the NHL the last two decades,” says Fehr, surrounded by some of the game’s top players, including Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and the Leafs’ James Reimer. “I like it a lot,” Crosby says of the proposal. “It’s addressing issues. As players, we want to accomplish what we hope to, but at the end of the day it takes both sides to do it.”
“I thought in our proposal we made a step and considerable concessions to them,” he added. “Frankly, it was a little disappointing to see the response yesterday and the view they have on it.”
Donald Fehr takes issue with the fact the offer includes a reduction in the players’ share of revenue to 46 per cent — when factoring in changes to how hockey-related revenue is calculated — and says it would see the amount of money players give up to escrow increase “significantly.”
As a result, the union concludes that the proposal wouldn’t actually see current contracts paid out in full.
“From a players’ standpoint, you should understand, it doesn’t make much of a difference,” says Fehr. “Should the player not get the dollar value that is on his contract because there is a rollback, which is simply a name for crossing out one number and writing in another, or whether he doesn’t get an amount because there is escrow, he still doesn’t get it.
“It amounts to the same thing.”
Aug. 30: The NHL releases its 2012-13 broadcast schedule — a day when there are no talks scheduled in New York between the league and the players’ association. The NHLPA needs an extra day to cobble together a counterproposal to the league’s latest offer as the two sides haggle over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Sept. 14: There is action on both sides, but nothing close to a deal or any indication either side is prepared to move off positions that see the players and owners looking across a $ 1 billion divide on who gets what out of record revenues.
The players, meanwhile, lose a battle in Montreal, where the NHLPA asks the provincial labour board to declare the proposed lockout illegal in Quebec. But the judge at the hearing refuses to stop the Montreal Canadiens from locking out their players.
“We are pleased but not surprised with the Quebec Labour Board’s ruling tonight that any lockout of players will be effective on a league-wide basis, including in Quebec,” says Daly.
“We are hopeful that this ruling will cause the players’ association to cease pursuing these needless distractions and instead focus all of its efforts and energies on making progress at the bargaining table.”
Sept. 15: With no further meetings scheduled and no progress made, the CBA expires and the NHL locks out its players.
Sept. 20: The NHL cancels pre-season games up to Sept. 30.
And day four of the NHL lockout ratchets up anxiety that this work stoppage would go on for a bit.
The day starts with Ovechkin signing with the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow and Ottawa star Jason Spezza leaving for Switzerland as NHL players continue their controversial parade overseas. Ovechkin does so with a message.
“As to the future, it will depend on what kind of conditions there will be in the NHL with the new CBA, “ Ovechkin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “If our contracts get slashed, I will have to think whether to return there or not. I won’t rule out staying in the KHL, even past this season.”
Sept. 28: The NHL and the players’ association agree on issues related to player safety and drug testing, but the core economic divide that prevents an end to the league’s latest lockout is not even on the agenda.
“You would absolutely hope that things progress and kind of catch fire, but right now we’re just going to take it one step at a time and try to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible,” says former player Mathieu Schneider, now an NHLPA special assistant to the executive director. “We’re taking baby steps right now.”
“We did not discuss core economic issues, as was the plan,” NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr says after meeting for five hours with the NHL. “We discussed health and safety, drug testing, including more discussion of drug testing, medical care, etc. Also a number of things in the CBA legal area of player movements.”
Oct. 2: With no further talks between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association planned — negotiations break off with no progress on Tuesday — the league inches towards cancelling the first part of the season, scheduled to begin Oct. 11.
“The definition of no progress that comes out of the NHL office seems to be ‘they didn’t give us what we want yet,’” Donald Fehr told reporters in New York.
Talks seem to be bogged down on small details, such as whether hotel rooms and the cost of trainers on the road should come out of hockey-related revenue (which would cost the players money) or whether those items ought to be directly expensed to the team.
“They understand what our position is, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Canadian Press. “To this point, we certainly understand what their position is. We just wish it was different.”
Oct. 11: Hockey’s opening day comes and goes with no games and no reason to think players would be hitting the ice anytime soon.
The league and the union go back to the bargaining table, hours before pucks are supposed to drop to open the regular season, but once again the sides don’t address the core economic differences at the centre of the lockout that has already lasted 26 days. After discussing secondary topics for a second straight day, no plans are made to meet again.
Oct. 16: The NHL presents a new deal to players in hopes of ending the lockout and allowing for a full 82-game season. The deal includes an across-the-board 50-50 split on hockey-related revenue with the league’s locked-out players.
Oct. 18: The NHL Players’ Association makes three separate counter-proposals to the NHL’s Oct. 16 offer. The league, however, rejects all three as the meeting dissolves after about an hour.
“It’s clear we’re not speaking the same language,” says Bettman afterwards.
Oct. 19: The NHL cancels 2012-13 regular season games through Nov. 1.
“When people ask for money, they usually say ‘Give me your money or I’m going to hurt you,’” says Phoenix Coyote Shane Doan. “They don’t say ‘Give me your money and I’m going to hurt you.’”
Oct. 25: The NHL withdraws its latest CBA proposal to the NHLPA after the deadline to play a full 82-game season passes.
Oct. 26: The NHL cancels the 2012-12 seasons schedule through Nov. 30. A total of 326 regular season games — from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30 are scratched.
“We know our fans were excited to see this historic Original Six outdoor encounter in a couple of months and we are disappointed for them,” says Tom Anselmi, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
Nov. 7: The NHL and the players’ association agree to resume talks on Nov. 6, which carries over to Nov. 7 in New York. Both sides say discussions over the weekend were positive, sparking some hope that the hockey season might be salvaged.
Nov. 12: As soon as labour negotiations get going again, they come to a screeching halt. Following a one-day break after a series of formal discussion during the week, the sides meet only to see talks about player-contract issues collapse after 90 minutes.
“The owners made it clear there is no give with respect to their proposals,” Fehr says.
Nov. 23: NHL cancels regular-season games through Dec. 14 and the 2013 all-star game in Columbus.
The U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), an independent government agency, reaches out to both sides independently and discovers both would agree to let mediators guide future discussions.
Scot L. Beckenbaugh, deputy director, and John Sweeny, director of mediation services, are to set to serve as the mediators.
Nov. 29: The NHL and players’ association fail to make a breakthrough after two days of meetings with U.S. federal mediators. No further talks with mediators are planned.
Dec. 4: A group of 18 players and six owners spend a late night marathon of collective bargaining meetings after two full days of negotiations. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and owner Ron Burkle are said to be strong voices in the room
Neither commissioner Bettman nor NHLPA executive director Fehr take part in the afternoon meetings. It is hoped that an altered dynamic at the bargaining table might break the stalemate in talks.
Dec. 5: A report by credit and debit card processor Moneris finds that overall spending at venues near arenas in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary has decreased more than 11 per cent from a year ago on a game day. Drinking establishments are being hit the hardest with business falling nearly 35 per cent.
“He was almost shaking.
“That was no act.”
“I just want to play hockey,” Crosby says after an informal workout with some of his teammate. “As far as whatever option is best there, I’ll start thinking of it a lot more because this stuff is getting ridiculous.”
Dec. 12: NHL owners and players resume negotiations in their labour standoff, with a faint air of optimism that hockey will return in the new year.
The league and its players’ union are joined again by U.S. federal mediators Scott Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney, who first tried to bridge the gap between the two sides in November.
Both sides remain dug in on three essential issues — the length of a new collective bargaining agreement, rules governing term limits on contracts and the transition rules to help teams get under the salary cap — and the talks are a test to see if any goodwill remains from the roller-coaster sessions in New York.
Dec. 14: With labour talks going nowhere, the NHL files a class action complaint in U.S. Federal Court in New York “seeking a declaration confirming the ongoing legality of the lockout.”
The NHL claims that the union, by “threatening to disclaim interest,” has “engaged in an unlawful subversion of the collective bargaining process.”
Dec. 20: The NHL announces the cancellation of the regular season schedule through Jan. 14, wiping out a total of 625 regular season games.
Dec. 22: Figures from Statistics Canada confirm that the NHL lockout is a drag on Canada’s economy.
Canada’s gross domestic product grew just 0.1 per cent in October, the agency says.
Dec. 27: The NHL makes what are considered significant concessions in a new proposal to the players, sparking high expectations that the league will begin playing a shortened season by the middle of January.
The league shows flexibility in some of the most contentious areas of the talks. It extends maximum contract lengths from five to six years and increased salary variance from 5 to 10 per cent — concessions that touched on and/or mirrored key components of the players’ proposal three weeks ago. It also includes $ 300 million in “make whole” payments to equalize player contracts in the early years of the deal.
Dec. 31: Face-to-face talks between the NHL and NHLPA take place in New York — the first time the two sides meet in person since Dec. 12-13. The NHLPA presents a counter-proposal to the offer made by the NHL on Dec. 27.
“We have to review the response,” says Bettman. “There was an opportunity for the players’ association to highlight the areas that they thought we should focus on based on their response. And that’s something we’ve now got to look at very closely.”
If the talks go wayward, the NHLPA’s executive board has the option to file a “disclaimer of interest” by Jan. 1 that would see the union dissolved and free players to file antitrust lawsuits against the league.
Jan. 1: After reviewing the NHLPA’s counter-proposal, the NHL delivers yet another counter-offer back to players.
Jan. 2: By the midnight deadline, the NHLPA doesn’t file its disclaimer of interest, a move under which a union would terminate its right to bargain for the players. Instead, talks between both sides continue past midnight. There is clearly a strong enough sense of real possibilities in the air as the media is invited to move from the curb of Sixth Avenue to the 13th floor of NHL headquarters.
Jan. 6: After 16 hours of negotiations in New York, a tentative agreement is reached that will end the NHL lockout.
Face to-face meetings with federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh from Saturday afternoon through the early hours of Sunday morning were needed to save the season. The 10-year collective bargaining agreement still must be ratified by the NHLPA. No start date has been set nor has it been announced how many games will be played.
Related:Read more on the NHL lockout.
With files from The Star, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press