There was a bit of unease today when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there’s no set date to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
With the current CBA set to expire on Sept. 15, several media outlets reacted with doom and gloom — that included Reuters, which ran with the “Labor war looms over All-Star weekend” headline.
Labor war? Hopefully not, Bettman said.
“My hope is that we can reason together and that collective bargaining will be painless and quiet and quick,” Bettman told reporters following Saturday’s board of governors meeting. “That would serve everyone’s best interest.”
The scent of labor strife has been in the air since the NHLPA rejected the NHL’s proposed realignment. Many saw it as the first shot fired by players’ association head Donald Fehr, the former Major League Baseball PA executive director known for his hard-nosed negotiation practices.
On Saturday, Fehr re-iterated much of what Bettman said — there’s no set date for the two sides to begin CBA talks.
“I don’t know yet, there will obviously be some preliminary discussions to set things up and talk about things,” Fehr said. “Obviously, my preference will be when we get to the real significant sessions to do it at a point in time, which is rather more likely to have players present easily than less.
“But we’ll know sometime in the next few weeks how that’s going to play out.”
Fehr also stated that people (read: media types) might be reading too much into the lack of a formal start date. He and the NHLPA want to obtain more financial information before getting down to brass tacks.
“There’s this view that somehow if you have this big meeting and everyone comes and takes pictures of a dozen or two dozen people sitting around a table like the auto workers used to do, that somehow magically that signifies the kickoff of something in a formal way and that the world is different as between before and after,” Fehr said.
“That’s largely untrue. … Don’t make more out of it than is there.”