Tuesday, 23 October 2012

NHLPA unaware team owners, GMs talked to players

Distrust continues to creep into the National Hockey League's stalled labour negotiations.

The NHL Players' Association was left questioning the league's motives after it surfaced Tuesday that team owners and general managers were given a 48-hour window last week to speak with players about the NHL's latest contract offer.

"Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings," said Steve Fehr, the NHLPA's special counsel. "No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot."

The window was granted at the same time the NHL took the unusual step of publishing its entire proposal to its website last Wednesday. According to a senior league official, team employees were told they could answer questions about the offer from players until midnight ET last Friday.

Since the lockout was enacted on Sept. 15, the NHL had forbidden contact between team officials and the locked-out players.

It was unclear how many players were contacted.

The up-and-down negotiations have stalled just days before a deadline to save the entire season. Last week, commissioner Gary Bettman said a full schedule could be played if an agreement was reached by Thursday and the puck was dropped on Nov. 2.

However, the players don't seem to believe that's an accurate timeline.

"I still think we could get a full schedule in but if it started a week or two weeks after Nov. 2, is that such a problem?" Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk told the Edmonton Journal on Monday.

The league's latest proposal included a 50-50 split of revenues between owners and players, and a number of changes to contracting rules, including a five-year term limit, shortened entry-level deals and unrestricted free agency pushed back to age 28 or eight years of service.

The union countered with three offers that focused solely on economics. Each of those saw revenue get to a 50-50 split over time, an important provision for the NHLPA because it wants to ensure all current contracts are paid out in full.

Julia Brendler Theresa Russel

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