'Wasn't fair deal' says Horcoff on offer 0
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman leaving a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. He referred to a "wide gap" still remaining in the labour negotiations with the NHLPA. (Veronica Henri/QMI Agency)
The NHL Players Association was hoping their proposal renewed a sense of optimism a lockout could be avoided.
That was quickly quashed, however, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters Wednesday there was still a wide gap between the two sides a day after receiving the offer.
It was a shot across the bow and many expected the players association to come back with their own unreasonable demands, which surprisingly didn’t happen Tuesday in Toronto.
“It was frustrating to say the least, it wasn’t a fair deal to be honest,” said Edmonton Oilers captain and player representative Shawn Horcoff on the NHL’s offer. “There were guys that were pissed off and there was talk of doing that (lowball) from our side. But I think the main focus when the players calmed down, was that, that wasn’t going to get us anywhere. That was only going to delay the process. If you want to miss the whole season again, then we can go ahead and lowball them coming back.”
The league’s response would indicate the diligence the NHLPA believed they had put in creating a counter-proposal hasn’t brought the sides any closer together.
It’s unfortunate because after receiving what was interpreted as a lowball offer from the league, the players could have come back with an unreasonable proposal of their own, all but assuring a work stoppage.
Instead, the players felt they have taken the high road in dissecting the owners’ offer and coming back with solution to the problems presented.
“I’ve been in New York for a couple of meetings and I know that everyone is focused on trying to put together a deal that works for both sides,” said Horcoff. “Our main focus is to try and get playing hockey right away.
“We sat there, and I think what took so much time for us to respond, is that we broke down their proposal and we looked at all areas and gave it serious thought in every aspect. There’s obviously areas of it that we’re not comfortable with as players and we don’t feel are fair. But we also looked at the areas that they said were problem areas and that’s where we tried to build the counter-proposal on.”
With the current collective bargaining agreement expiring on Sept. 15, the owners initially put together a proposal looking to establish parameters for a new deal and presented it to the players a month ago.
Their proposal, however, was a classic lowball offer guaranteed to be rejected.
Among some of the key points were, lowering players percentage of league revenue from 57% to 46%, abolishing salary arbitration, restricting contracts to five years and extending the time players must serve in the league before being eligible for free agency.
Essentially the owners are tying to come up with an agreement that will protect themselves from themselves.
That’s why they argued the need for a salary cap in the first place in 2004. They now want term limits to keep teams from circumventing the original intention of the cap.
By reducing the players’ percentage of league revenues, owners also appear to want their employees to absorb the bulk of losses in struggling markets.
Unlike the last lockout, which wiped out the 2004-2005 season, this time the players appear to be a more unified group under the leadership of executive director Donald Fehr.
“I think we’ve done a really good job of having a veteran presence now, I think more so than before,” Shawn Horcoff said. “The turnout on the players side is so much better than it was last time. Guys are interested, guys want to know what’s going on and they want to be involved. For us that’s a huge thing, because information is the key. We want all sides to know exactly what’s going on and to be informed. When everyone is informed everyone makes better decisions and things get done quicker.”
The fact the players offer was not lowball counter to the owners proposal, seems to indicate their position on wanting to reach an agreement as quickly as possible is genuine.
“There are a lot of players that went through it last time and realize that it’s painful, it’s not good for both sides,” Horcoff said. “For us, it’s a focus, we don’t want to miss games. If we have to miss parts of training camp so be it, but we know that that fans have been through this before and we don’t want to see them go through that again.”