Report: NHL, NHLPA agree to CBA deal
February 18, 2005
TORONTO (Ticker) - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman may get the opportunity to embarrass himself after all.
The Hockey News reported on its website Friday that the labor meeting between the NHL and the Players Association on Saturday will result in a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement that features a $45 million salary cap.
In an official statement Friday, the union confirmed it will meet with the league on Saturday in an attempt to resolve the current labor dispute and save the 2004-05 season, which was canceled by Bettman on Wednesday.
During his news conference Wednesday, Bettman asked himself if he would be willing to suffer the embarrassment of returning to a podium to announce the reversal of the cancellation and responded, "You betcha."
Bettman may get the opportunity as soon as Saturday. According to The Hockey News, a player close to the situation believes a resolution is inevitable.
When asked whether a deal would not be reached, the player said, "Not that I can see. I couldn't possibly imagine the idea that somebody is going to try to make a name for themselves in the last minute here."
The union said on Friday it was contacted by the league late Thursday night and asked to attend a meeting in New York on Saturday.
Several Canadian websites reported the news of the meeting earlier Friday, citing undisclosed sources.
"While nothing is written in stone yet, we expect the PA in New York by the weekend, possibly as early as (Friday night)," an anonymous league executive told Rogers Sportsnet of Canada.
Sportsnet also reported Phoenix Coyotes managing partner Wayne Gretzky and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux will take part in Saturday's negotiations. Bettman and NHL vice president Bill Daly and union executive director Bob Goodenow and senior director Ted Saskin will represent their respective parties.
The NHLPA executive committee also is expected to attend the meeting.
"We can't let this thing die when we're so close," a team executive told TSN of Canada. "We've come this far, it would be insane to lose the season over a relatively small gap."
That gap was believed to be $6.5 million, the difference between the last proposals each side presented Tuesday night. The NHL came forth with a "final offer" of a $42.2 million hard salary cap while eliminating linkage from players' salaries to league revenue.
The union countered with a $49 million soft cap. Both deals included the 24 percent salary rollback offered by the NHLPA in December.
Neither Bettman nor Goodenow dismissed the possibility of settling on a $45 million cap, but both expressed unwillingness to contact the other with such a proposal.
Both sides made considerable concessions Monday as the NHL wiped out linkage from its offer and the union backed off its hardline stance against a salary cap. But after Bettman's announcement of the cancellation of the season, both figureheads declared their offers were no longer on the table.
With Bettman's dismal announcement Wednesday, the NHL became the first North American major sports league to lose an entire season due to a labor dispute. It also ensured a Stanley Cup champion would not be crowned for the first time since 1919, when the Finals were canceled after five games due to a Spanish Flu epidemic.