The good news from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after his small-scale meetings with the NHLPA on Tuesday: The sides took "a significant, meaningful step" in negotiations over the league's counter-proposal to the players.
With a wide gap between both sides and a lockout looming, the executives thought it was best to keep the conference room attendance light.
Tuesday's sessions were billed as ''economic,'' as opposed to several others that required player attendance because issues of health, ice conditions, and travel were discussed.
The question: A meaningful step in what direction?
This isn't to question that positive progress was made. By all accounts, there was in the New York meeting. But when the sunniest news is about revenue sharing, it tempers that optimism.
The NHL has framed revenue sharing as an important, but ultimately secondary, issue in the CBA talks. The players, meanwhile, have made it a centerpiece issue.
Part of this is knowing thy enemy: Donald Fehr is Mr. Revenue Sharing, and by downplaying its importance the NHL is downplaying the impressive attempt at revolutionizing the system in the players' first proposal — as well as their executive director's greatest accomplishment back in baseball.
Granted, any bridging of that NHLPA revenue-sharing proposal — which offered a partnership between the players and the biggest revenue-generating teams — and the NHL's, which just sought to expand the current system, would be positive momentum. But there wasn't exactly a chasm between the sides; an NHL source told me the issue could have been resolved "tomorrow" — and that was over a week ago.
So again, this is positive progress — although I'm writing this without having seen anything concrete on the proposal (we'll update when it's leaked). But the fate of the season hangs on the players' percentage of revenue, how that revenue is tabulated and the "fundamentals" as Bettman's called them: contract term, arbitration and other factors that could slow salary growth.
More talks as the week continues. That's always a good sign.
UPDATE: Via the Canadian Press, some details:
A source told The Canadian Press that the offer would see the players' share of revenue reduced to 51.6 per cent in the first year of the deal and 50.5 per cent in the second — and wouldn't include a rollback on existing contracts.
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