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Labor log: Day 2 and no deal, but – yay! – economic terminology.


NEW YORK —Well, who doesn’t enjoy an extra couple of days in New York City?

(He raises his hand.)

Nothing against the Big Apple, but I was expecting to hear a bit more…

Actually, no, that isn’t correct. I was not expecting to hear as much as I did Wednesday from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who openly discussed many details of the league’s latest CBA proposal.

He did that after NHLPA executive director Don Fehr detailed why the union needed more time, which is fair, before presenting a counterproposal, which he said could come Thursday but maybe not until Friday.

Yeah, there were a lot of words – and, as my main story for Thursday’s Trib points out, more economic jargon – from the men in charge of this labor dispute on this second day of meetings between the NHL and NHLPA.

Hey, at least they’re still talking.

I do wonder for how long, though?

My sense is that the NHL really believes it took a big step toward setting up the new CBA with this offer, and my feeling is that the NHLPA is about as agreeable to these terms as the Penguins would be to Sidney Crosby joining a Dek hockey league during any lockout.

Oh, by the way: I’m told it’s a lot more likely that Crosby would play Dek hockey during the lockout than lace up his skates for a club in Russia or anywhere in Europe – but Penguins fans can expect Evgeni Malkin to play in the KHL so long as any lockout drags on. (Exclusive quotes from Malkin on that topic will be yours, dear readers, soon enough.)

Actually, Malkin reuniting with his hometown team in Magnitogorsk is a neat story, a perhaps nice bookend chapter for a city and its would-be prodigal son/world’s best hockey player.

But who cares about neat stories when there are things like hockey-related revenue and escrow and percentages to talk about?

(He raises his hand.)

Look, I’d love to say I possess some wonderful insight on the labor talks. I do not.

I’d love to say one side is more right than the other. I will not.

I can say, though, that there will probably be a lot of overreaction to everything that comes out of New York the remainder of this week.

I will say, unequivocally, that as long as the NHL and NHLPA continue to meet there isn’t a logical reason to feel a work stoppage is inevitable.

Clearly, however, there is a fundamental problem the two sides have to overcome – and that problem is, basically, who’s about to get paid.

The owners want to get theirs and get more of it than they are getting under this CBA. When Bettman admits, as he did today, that he will not project for economic growth of more than 7 percent going forward – well, you can get an idea where the owners stand.

This economy is different world compared to the one from 2005, when the current CBA was agreed upon. Indeed, the NHL has grown wildly as a business, but wild business growth just doesn’t seem to be the way of the future according to any analyst I’ve seen talking on CNBC of Fox Business.

So, the owners are digging in, even though they have already made a concession – (no lie, I actually typed “concussion” instead of “concession” before catching my error; clearly a Freudian slip) — from their original proposal.

Still, the NHLPA wasn’t fine with the original proposal – basically, one that asked the union to accept a flip of the 57/43 revenue split – and regarding this proposal from the NHL it seems the union and league are very much on different pages regarding the fundamental economics and the words used to describe them.

There is a lot going on here in New York, and yet it feels like the week will end with not a lot of progress made on a new CBA.

I keep asking myself this question: Where is the person in our hockey community who cares to understand anything other than when the next NHL game will be played?

(He envisions many raised hands.)







Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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