CHICAGO — The NHL and NHL Players’ Association will meet again Friday in New York to continue collective bargaining negotiations.
Players have until Sept. 15 to decide whether to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement effective a year from now. Owners had the same option and chose not to end it, citing the health of the league and the momentum from a period of labor peace.
Unlike previous negotiations where Commissioner Gary Bettman said there was a need for fundamental changes, the issues this time appear more manageable. Bettman described it as ”joint problem-solving” between the league and players, which has sparked the ongoing dialogue.
”I said this to (NHLPA executive director Don Fehr) when I told him we weren’t reopening: ‘Listen, we’ve been at this since February. Whatever you need in the next two weeks subject to existing commitments … we’re at your disposal,”’ Bettman said Thursday. ”Whatever (players) want in their period of having to decide what to do, we’ll try to be as accommodating as possible.”
The two sides could negotiate an extension of the current CBA with some changes. If players decide not to opt out and there’s no extension, the CBA expires in September 2022.
Roughly 50 players from the executive board and others in town met Wednesday night. Chicago Blackhawks player representative Jonathan Toews said the 700-plus-member group is pretty close to having a consensus on major issues.
”I cannot remember in all my career in both sports, a decision of that magnitude that wouldn’t be lopsided or unanimous,” Fehr said. ”I would be astonished if it would be split.”
There’s no public indication which way players are leaning with 10 days left to make a decision that could set the clock ticking toward the NHL’s third work stoppage over the past two decades. Bettman and Fehr each said an extension of the deadline has not been discussed, so the players are currently on the clock.
”There’s some serious things that everyone has to be informed (about) and understand inside and out before we make a decision like that,” Toews said. ”To reopen, you have to try and understand all the possibilities of each scenario. We’re kind of going through those motions right now.”