LOS ANGELES – They were reduced to quibbling over who decided to call a recess. That pretty much explains how matters transpired Friday in what was a relatively brief negotiating session between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association in New York.
There are no new talks scheduled. The collective bargaining agreement in place is due to expire Sept. 15, and the league has said it will lock out players if a new agreement isn’t in place by that date.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters after Friday’s meeting that the league was “stonewalled” by the NHLPA. He also implied that there was a lack of urgency on the side of the union.
“I’m disappointed. We offered to talk a year ago,” he said in a media briefing, adding that the first negotiation session didn’t take place until June 29.
Donald Fehr, the executive director of the union, said the players’ counter-proposal to the league owners’ offer was rejected and that the league had opted to recess talks on Friday. Bettman would not go as far as to acknowledge the union’s proposal, calling it a “response,” and disputed the “recess” characterization as unfair and inaccurate.
The frustration was widespread.
Jamal Mayers of the Chicago Blackhawks tweeted his discontent Friday: “I would love to be in the (NHL) BOG (Board of Governors) meeting next week as Bettman tries to explain not negotiating off the PA’s offer that helps 21+teams #justashame”
Europe, of course, will be an option for some players, just as it was when a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season.
Scott Norton, the agent for Dustin Brown, said that there was interest in the Kings captain from a team in Switzerland. But any possible plans to go to Switzerland are on hold – for now.
“Right now, we’re just going to sit it out and meet next week and see what happens and readdress it then,” Norton said Friday.