Even the usually cheerful Sidney Crosby could not sprinkle any sunshine on the ominous situation that has cloaked the NHLPA-NHL labour dispute.
After another futile attempt from both sides to end the 33-day NHL lockout on Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain was asked if there would be hockey this year.
"In a nutshell, it doesn't look good right now," Crosby replied. He also admitted that he's going to look "harder" at playing in Europe after Thursday's developments.
Crosby's comments came about 90 minutes after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his negotiating committee took only 10 minutes to turn down the players' three variations of a counterproposal they presented in the NHLPA's downtown Toronto office.
Bettman and his group played to the emotions of hockey fans on Tuesday, when the NHL proposed to meet the players' at a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues and promised that a deal would allow the league to play a full 82-game schedule that was to begin on Nov. 2.
Both the NBA and NFL ended lockouts a year ago by agreeing to roughly 50-50 splits, so why not the NHL? Well, the NHLPA does not like the comparisons of the NFL and NBA. Those leagues have different sized rosters and richer revenue thresholds.
Let's just say, there were several concerns the NHLPA had with the NHL's latest offer, as NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr wrote in his letter to players and their agents: "Simply put, the owners' new proposal, while not as quite as draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rules. As you will see, at the 5 per cent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion US. What do the owners offer in return?"
The NHLPA has said all along that it was willing to a 50-50 split, just not a drastic drop from the 57 per cent figure of how the last collective agreement ended. The players also want the owners to honour the full value of their current contracts.
In the players' third proposal, Fehr outlined that his constituency would agree to a 50-50 split if the owners would were to honour contracts and cover those contracts up front.
The NHL saw this third proposal in a different light as deputy commissioner Bill Daly was swift to issue a statement that contradicted the NHLPA's claim of a 50-50 split:
"The so called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players' Association earlier today is being misrepresented. It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-per cent deal in Year One and never gets to 50 per cent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement.
"The proposal contemplates paying the Players approximately $650 million outside of the Players' Share. In effect, the Union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not. The Union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did."
Before the league claimed to have run the numbers, Fehr outlined the NHLPA's three alternative proposals, all five years in length.
Here is background on the three counterproposals:
Option 1 - Fixed Shares
Fixed dollar amounts in years 1-3, taking share to under 51 per cent at the end of three years if hockey-related revenues (HRR) grows at its historical average (7.2 per cent).
In years four and five, NHLPA would accept 50 per cent of HRR as long as players' share wouldn't fall below the third year's level.
If HRR grows faster than the 5 per cent Bettman has said the NHLPA receives an extra increment, but share would still be based on 50 per cent.
Player concessions total $800-million if HRR grows at 5 per cent a year, $1.1-billion if HRR grows at the historical rate (7.2 per cent) of the past ten years.
Option 2 - Milestones
The faster revenues grow, the faster players' share goes to 50 per cent, and more money NHL saves.
If league revenues grow at 5 per cent per year, players' share will equal 50 per cent in year five. To get there, players' share equals $1.883-billion (same level as last year), plus 24.7 percent of any new HRR, allowing share time to fall to 50 percent.
Once HRR crosses $4.216-billion level, players' share is equal to 50 percent of level suggested by 5 percent annual growth rate and 57 percent of any increment to HRR above the 5 percent annual growth rate up to 7.2 percent; and 61 percent of HRR increment over 7.2 percent annual growth rate level.
- Player concessions total $854-million if HRR grows at 5 percent a year, $1.059-billion if HRR grows at the historical rate (7.2%) of the past 10 years.
Option 3 - Make Whole
Takes the players' share to 50/50 immediately.
Contracts that were signed before the lockout are valued for both share and cap purposes at 87 per cent of the contract's cash and cap value in any year these deals are in force. This is because the 50 per cent, once benefits are accounted for, represents a 13 per cent cut in total player pay. This 13 per cent does not count towards share or club salary cap.
This is done to protect players who signed long-term deals.
It says that players will accept 50 per cent for new contracts, but the owners must live by their word for past agreements.
Over time, these older deals will wind down. By year 5 the majority of the current contracts will be out of the system and the share will reach 50 per cent.
The owners would be assured of $750-million in savings.