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Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association. (NHLPA photo)
Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association. (NHLPA photo)

Fehr: NHL, players now just $182-million apart Add to ...

The players made their push to save the NHL season on Wednesday morning in New York.

With a 68-game season starting on Dec. 1 still a possibility, the NHLPA proposed a five-year agreement that executive director Donald Fehr said is only $182-million away from the NHL’s last offer.

“It was comprehensive,” Fehr told the reporters in attendance. “It’s an effort, about as good as we can do, to try and see if there’s an agreement that can be reached.”

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An integral part of the players’ proposal is $393-million in “make whole” money over the five years, which is substantially more than the $211-million the owners last had on the table but less than the $592-million the NHLPA had previously asked for.

Included was a proposal by the union on eliminating heavily front-loaded contracts, the only element of the disputed contract rights the NHLPA opted to put in its offer.

“We’ve moved in their direction previously on a couple of the player contracting issues,” Fehr said. “The rest are very, very important to the players.”

Fehr also added that the players’ proposal for the first time deals in percentages as opposed to a guaranteed share.

The two sides were locked in meetings discussing the offer throughout Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re making a move in their direction so I don’t see why they wouldn’t consider it,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The meetings took place two days after the NHLPA provided an update to members of Canadian parliament in a letter to every MP.

The letter, seen below, was believed to be in response to a member of parliament threatening Canadian government intervention into the lockout and demanding an update on the situation on behalf of angry constituents:

Dear Member of Parliament:

As the lockout approaches the eleventh week, I wanted to provide you with a brief update of the status of bargaining between the NHLPA and the NHL.

On October 26, 2012, the league officially informed the NHLPA that they had withdrawn their latest proposal and had cancelled regular season games until the end of November. This move was deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. Since that time, the NHL has also cancelled the Winter Classic.

In an attempt to move the discussions forward, we met with the NHL last week for a series of meetings in New York. Unfortunately, they continue to insist that they will not move off their “take-it-or-leave it” approach to bargaining. The players have proposed that their share of hockey-related revenue move towards the NHL’s stated desire for a 50-50 split, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request.

We have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions.

To be clear, the lockout was a unilateral decision taken by the owners. It is the third lockout in eighteen years. Hockey has lost more games to work stoppages than the three other professional sports leagues combined, virtually all as the result of owners’ lockouts.

Given that the NHL has just enjoyed seven straight seasons of record revenues, we believe the owners have no justification for their actions. The players have repeatedly offered to open the season and play without a new contract in place. Negotiations could have continued while games were played. It did not have to come to this.

The players understand the selfishness of the owners’ lockout position all too well. Countless people – from league and team employees, to hockey fans, to small business owners and their workers – are suffering unnecessarily as a result.

While we recognize that we can’t help everyone that has been affected by the owners’ decision, we’re committed to doing what we can, where we can.

As a start, we have reached out to a number of small business owners to offer assistance, even if it’s only in a modest way. In addition, a number of our players have been working with minor hockey teams across Canada to provide coaching support. To date, there have been 88 player visits to 55 different practices. Players have also initiated and organized a number of charity hockey games in Chicago, Minnesota, Vancouver, and a number of games in Quebec. There are plans to play a game in Winnipeg as well.

I have taken the liberty of including a package of pictures and clippings of our recent activities that you might find of interest.

The players remain committed to negotiating until a deal is reached that is fair for both sides, and, more than anything, look forward to getting back on the ice.

Sincerely,

Alexandra Dagg
Director of Operations
National Hockey League Players’ Association

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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