NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: 82-game schedule "does not seem to be a reality"
Hope the NHL could salvage a full 82-game season seemed to fade Wednesday, when commissioner Gary Bettman said, "Unfortunately, an 82-game season does not seem to be a reality."
There had been some hope, and there still is a glimmer as the league has set a deadline of Thursday to get a new collective bargaining agreement done in order for a full season to start by Nov. 2. But there have been no formal negotiations since Oct. 18, none are scheduled and both sides blame the other for the impasse.
"The union has chosen not to engage," Bettman said at a news conference announcing the Islanders 2015 move to Brooklyn.
But Lightning right wing B.J. Crombeen, a member of the Players' Association negotiating committee, said it is the league that has kept its distance. In fact, the league on Tuesday night rebuffed a union offer to restart talks as long as there were no preconditions. Bettman said there is nothing to talk about if the union does not have a new proposal or isn't willing to "engage on our proposal."
"We've told them we're in New York, we want to get together, we want to talk," Crombeen said. "As players, we've shown we're willing to negotiate, we're willing to work, that we want to get something done. But they're not willing to. It's a bully tactic and it's not really negotiating."
The main sticking point is how to get to the 50-50 split of hockey related revenue that seem to be the agreed end point of negotiations. The owners want to immediately reduce the players' cut from last season's 57 percent. Players want the reduction to be gradual over the life of the agreement.
"Listen," Tampa Bay wing Marty St. Louis said, "we're wiling to get there. Let's just share the responsibility."
In the meantime, Lightning players continue to work out at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. Eight showed up Wednesday for a 50-minute workout that included one-on-one puck battles and skating drills.
"We worked hard," St. Louis said.
But the numbers certainly will dwindle further, said St. Louis, who is close to leaving for Europe.
"I need to play and I will play," he said, and added, "Everybody is disappointed. We feel we've moved in (the owners') direction, majorly. They're not willing to negotiate. It's take it or leave it. It's ridiculous."
Added Crombeen: "We were hoping when we got their last proposal that they were going to be serious about negotiating, and I think it's pretty clear they're not right now. It's frustrating. It's frustrating when you hear them say to fans that they're trying to get this done because they're not. It's frustrating to see them act the way they are."