NHL, NHLPA Call Off CBA Talks: Sides Suddenly Retreat To Square 1

15 days before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, talks have broken off between the NHL and NHLPA while optimism has been thrown out the window.

"At this point, talks are off," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said at NHL headquarters in Manhattan Friday after a meeting that lasted approximately 90 minutes. He noted that it was the owners who opted to call off talks and that the players are ready to resume at any time. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called that claim inaccurate.

The union made a counter-proposal Friday based on a proposal submitted by the league earlier in the week, and cautious optimism had filtered through the hockey world due to the simple fact that the two sides were at least discussing the same proposal.

But Friday's news seemingly brings us back to square one: The owners want more money -- whether that's from a direct roll back in salaries or increased escrow -- and the players do not want to give it to them. The players are sticking by their initial CBA proposal, one from which the league is not prepared to work, saying that the players are not willing to budge on the "core financials."

The NHLPA's initial offer two weeks ago called for a reduction in player salaries for the next three seasons after which the deal would "snap back" to again give the players a 57 percent share of hockey-related revenue, the same terms under the current CBA. Fehr called the give back in the first three years meaningful, but Bettman called the fourth year a non-starter.

The PA's initial proposal also called for greater revenue sharing -- the NHLPA believes that larger-market teams should spread wealth around to smaller-market teams, and he praised the idea of an "industry growth fund" similar to one he negotiated as head of the MLB Players' Association that would help struggling clubs.

The owners want a longer-term deal, and Bettman cited the 10-year agreements reached in both the NBA and the NFL a summer ago. The players disagree, citing an uncertain economic future and high player turnover rates as reasons to stick to a three or four year agreement.

All in all, it seems as though the two sides are back to the beginning and no real progress has been made.

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