On Monday, it was bleak.
“The players feel we need something from them,” Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider said of the NHL team owners after an informal practice Monday. “They haven’t made a single concession and we’re Day 30 of the lockout and the owners have not made one concession.”
Tuesday, well, it was somewhat brighter. But players remained wary, even as Schneider said the NHL’s new offer was a “good sign,” and defenceman Kevin Bieksa said it marks “progress.”
Coming off the ice after a morning practice on Tuesday – complete with compact 3-on-1s with two nets on either side of the centre-ice faceoff circle – the players were not versed in details of an offer that had just been tabled.
The primary question was 50-50 of what, in terms of the NHL’s proposed revenue split and the always-nebulous hockey-related revenue.
The other key issues, for players, are contracting concessions and revenue sharing.
“Fifty-fifty is a good start,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “But it’s tough to really know. It’s a negotiation. Both sides have to give up a few things. Fifty-fifty is just a number.”
Schneider, a player representative on the players’ association bargaining committee and a finance grad from Boston College, noted that the owners are hardly making a concession with their Tuesday offer.
“It’s making their demands less demanding,” said Schneider, still in full gear and sweating.
On 50-50, he said: “It’s not necessarily what we want as a split but again everyone’s been looking for a gesture, for someone to make a move, and they made a move. And now we need to analyze it and get back to them with an answer, yes or no.”
He also said: “The fact that the owners made a move toward us is a good sign, a very good sign. It’s hopefully going to kick start this to where it needs to be.”
For the owners, the offer marks something of an internal concession, even as they are still asking players to take less of the cash that hockey generates.
While some people have seen 50-50 as the obvious solution, there were at least several owners who wanted a players’ take of less than 50.
With commissioner Gary Bettman putting 50-50 on the table, it looks clear the commissioner has the requisite backing. There had been a percolating feeling among some owners that a cancelled season was beginning to look likely.
The offer Tuesday seems to have at least somewhat quelled such pessimism. Still, hard bargaining is ahead.
Part of the reason is because 50-50 may be as much as the NHL moves. Some owners for whom 50-50 is palatable say they refuse to consider any higher number for the players.
For the players, they are still frustrated by the frame of the debate, that 50-50 is “fair,” given that 50 per cent is far less than their previous share of 57.
“We obviously have to work together but it seems like it’s been almost assumed that the players have to take concessions, when we made record revenue last year,” Bieksa said on Tuesday. “Regardless of what [the owners are] claiming, the league’s doing very well. Three-quarters of the teams are doing very well, so I’m still not quite sure why there’s the assumption [that] we need to make the concessions. But that’s the way it is.”
Given the intransigence, so far, among owners and players, Bieksa hinted at players looking to deal. “I think we’re eager to get a deal done. I’m hoping the fans notice that, that we’re not asking for more money, at a time when we could be. We’re trying to work with the league and come to terms with them and create a deal that will help these bottom-end teams.”