Tuesday afternoon in New York, six NHL owners will meet with a handful of players without the presence of commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.
It’s hoped the introduction of some new voices will lead to progress in CBA negotiations.
Here are the six owners that will be in attendance, with a short blurb on their potential role in the talks:
Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins): If there’s one owner that could bring some goodwill to talks, it may be him. As ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun notes, Burkle was once named “Man of the Year” by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (he’s also been named the AFL-CIO’s Humanitarian of the Year), so clearly the billionaire’s past dealings with unions have been successful.
Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins): A controversial, though not entirely surprising, invitee. Jacobs has been a fixture in negotiations, along with Murray Edwards (Flames), Ted Leonsis (Capitals) and Craig Leipold (Wild). The players have expressed a good deal of anger at Jacobs’ heavy-handed approach. If he’s a dominant influence tomorrow, it’s hard to see the union being overly receptive.
Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets): Last week, he emphatically denied a report that one of the club’s alternate governors was reprimanded by Jacobs in an NHL Board of Governors meeting. Given the way Winnipeg fans supported the NHL’s return to the city last season, it makes sense that Chipman is anxious to make a deal. That said, the Jets are a budget-conscious club that needs to think long-term. Profits are no guarantee in the league’s smallest market.
Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames): Also reportedly a hardliner, though not as much as Jacobs. If we’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, former Flames owner Harley Hotchkiss, who died in 2011, was considered a key figure in ending the 2004-05 lockout after forging a relationship with NHLPA president Trevor Linden, so maybe Edwards will feel some pressure to follow in his peacemaking footsteps.
Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs): The owner of a 25 percent stake in the NHL’s most profitable franchise can’t be happy that his money machine has stalled. It’s not clear how much the Leafs stand to profit from a new CBA that will likely see the players’ share of revenue fall from 57 percent to 50. For all they gain from lower player costs, some of that will be offset by increased revenue sharing between rich and poor clubs. Tanenbaum won’t want to lose a season.
Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning): In mid-October, Vinik said he was optimistic a deal would be struck “sooner rather than later.” A month and a half later, the two sides have yet to bridge the gap. Vinik has been popular with Lightning fans since buying the team in 2010. The hedge fund manager has spent millions on upgrades to the Tampa Bay Times Forum and, despite the team’s relatively low revenue, hasn’t been afraid to commit big dollars to players.