Was miscommunication to blame for the breakdown of talks between NHL owners and players?
Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey thinks yes.
The league, meanwhile, says no.
So who’s right?
Well, let’s start with the league’s side of the events that transpired during this week’s meetings that were held without NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA chief Donald Fehr.
From Yahoo!’s Nick Cotsonikas:
It turned out to be just [Bill] Daly and Steve Fehr with six owners – including four fresh faces – and a group of almost 20 players. The idea Tuesday was to talk big picture and find out what both sides really needed. Things went well. There was hope on both sides. The optimism carried into the NHL’s board of governors meeting Wednesday.
Then the optimism “almost inexplicably disappeared,” in Bettman’s words, when the sides talked specifics after the board meeting. The owners offered the $300 million in “make-whole” money, up from $211 million. The players said their priority was now a pension plan, when that was not their priority in the past.
“The union’s response was shockingly silent,” Bettman said. “There was almost no direct reaction. It was, ‘Thank you. We’ll take the hundred million dollars.’ The owners were beside themselves. Some of them I had never seen that emotional. And they said they don’t know what happened, but, ‘This process is over. Clearly the union doesn’t want to make a deal.’ “
But that wasn’t the case, according to Hainsey. If the players insulted the owners with their response, it wasn’t their intention.
“There was clearly a communication issue with what was being transpired across the table,” Hainsey told TSN.ca. “They hadn’t understood it properly I guess, or it just hadn’t been communicated right and there was an issue there and so that was when I thought it was troublesome. We needed to think about getting the lead guys back in there; both sides not just our side because being clear and getting this done we felt was there to do.”
At which point the players insisted on the return of Donald Fehr to negotiations. To which the owners said fine, but “if that’s the case, don’t expect us to stay involved,” according to Daly.
In the end, both sides acknowledged that too many voices may have been problematic.
“When there’s 18 players in the room and six owners, there’s a lot of people who want to share their view, and there’s a lot of stuff to take in. It’s not just direct negotiations, and I feel that’s where we got off-track a little,” said Hainsey.
“I wouldn’t disagree with Ron that it is difficult to have real ‘negotiations’ with so many people in the room,” said Daly. “It really needs to be done in a much tighter group setting.”
That being said, Daly doesn’t believe miscommunication was ultimately to blame for the failure to bridge the gap.
Instead, it was simply a matter of the NHLPA failing to agree to the NHL’s three must-haves: five-year max contracts, a 10-year CBA, and no compliance issues (e.g. escrow limits, buyouts).