Gary Bettman tries his damnedest to look sympathetic.
As things progress, it's becomingly increasing clear that CBA negotiations are a lot like depression or dementia: there are good days and bad days.
By all accounts, today was a bad day.
After just 90 minutes of negotiations, Donald Fehr told media that collective bargaining talks with the league had been "recessed", and I suspect that this recess did not include hopscotch, snacks, or Spinelli. Consider Friday the day CBA talks got ugly.
Negotiations have been hitting some pretty fundamental walls thus far, with neither side able to agree on whose proposal would be ground zero and what HRR was, for instance. Today yielded another fundamental disagreement, as both sides disagreed over who was so disagreeable as to recess the talks. From ESPN:
"The response that was made to us was that if the players are not prepared to make an automatic reset on their aggregate salary levels -- that is to say, as we understand it, a meaningful, absolute reduction in dollar terms for next year as compared to last year -- that they see no point in discussing or responding to the proposals we put forward at the meeting today," Fehr said.
Meanwhile, Bettman accused the union of "stonewalling" and said he was disappointed by Friday's events. He also questioned whether the NHLPA was concerned with the narrowing window of time with which the sides can work.
"There seems to be no rush by the union to make a deal," Bettman said.
And then when someone in the media said, "Let's all agree to disagree," Bettman said, "I don't agree to that," then Fehr said, "Neither do I.")
Bettman added that the league is willing to resume discussions when the NHLPA has something to say, the implication being that today in the counterproposal, they did not. Oof.
What did the players say? Nothing new, really. They refused to budge from their percentage of the revenue, a fact that really harshed Bettman's mellow. "What I thought was starting as a promising week after we made our substantial counterproposal on Tuesday ended, I guess, in disappointment," he said.
(I love this statement. I was optimistic when I said what I wanted. I was less optimistic when they said what they wanted.)
"I wish I had better news everybody," Bettman told the media, before adding, "Poor Gare Bear", then making a frowny-face and eliciting a chorus of awwwwws. (Okay that last part didn't happen.)
For those of us hoping for a lockout, Bettman and Fehr's attempts to present the other as the disagreeable one -- the one steering these negotiations towards a lockout -- should be the most concerning. The implication that it's time to start assigning blame to a lockout was a tacit acknowledgement that one is coming.
Is there anything that could put an end to this stalemate in time to give us hockey this fall? Sure. Heck, Bettman made it sound pretty simple.
''Someone needs to say something new,'' he said Friday.
But the sense was that it wouldn't be his side, and after Donald Fehr and the NHLPA refused to budge in the 90-minute session, it sure doesn't look like it will be them either. Brace yourselves.
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