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Bettman suggests players, owners meet without league or union leaders

Nov 29, 2012, 6:01 PM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

Would these negotiations go any smoother if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, and those that work directly under them weren’t in the room?

We might find out.

Bettman has suggested that the owners and players meet directly, without league or union personnel being present, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. Fehr and the NHLPA are believed to be considering that option.

Given that the union hasn’t even made a commitment to this hypothetical meeting, it’s not clear when it would occur. However, if it does happen, it sounds like not all of the owners would be present.

“We want to find a way to get to a deal,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, according to ESPN and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. “Nothing else has worked. The Commissioner felt that we might as well propose something different. We will see how they respond.”

The two sides already tried speaking to a federal mediator, but unfortunately that didn’t go well.

  1. General Lee 1175 - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Quit giving the folks false hope NHL , you’re now reaching and grasping at unrealistic straws here lol

  2. ron05342 - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Man, I would pay good money to be in that room! Pure entertainment.

    • bcsteele - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:28 PM

      Do NOT give them a dime of any money.

  3. mustbechris - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    This is a carefully planned poison pill to get the lawyers out of the room and have the well educated rich owners try to persuade the high school educated players to pressure Fehr into crumbling.

    I think Fehr is crafty enough to agree to the meeting and still keep his players in line though, depending on the players he puts in the room. Putting Crosby or Hartnell in there is different from putting a 4th liner in there who is more worried about putting dinner on the table than protecting a 12 year $100 mill contract.

    In which case, this continues to go nowhere. Bettman is still pursuing end-arounds rather than negotiations in good faith. If they can’t get the union to cave by doing this, they’ll just start looking for another way to try to get them to cave. Compromise isn’t even a last resort for Bettman – it’s just not a resort at all it seems.

    • somekat - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:16 PM

      I like people like you who blame Bettman for EVERYTHING, then he offers to take himself out of the process entirely, and that’s still not good enough.

      My guess is, the owners don’t feel Fehr is properly representing their offers, which is more than likely considering the half cocked, and hardly considered “proposals” he’s brought up. They want to speak to and try to pursuade the players directly. The only reason for the NHLPA to not at least take a chance on this, there is no reason except Fehr trying to protect his own reputation.

      Anyway you slice it, this is 100% on the players at this point. Any small hope that has come down the line, has been from soemthing initiated on the owners side. The players haven’t brought anything signifiant to the table since this all started

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:24 PM

        Half cocked, any way you slice it, eh? Sounds painful.

      • tatdue - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:09 PM

        @somecat – You’re a funny guy I’ll give you that….I really love the line about “Anyway you slice it, this is 100% on the players at this point”…..that has to be the funniest line that anybody has written yet!!! You must be Bettman or Daly or some other owner in disguise because I just refuse to think that there are actually people stupid enough to actually believe the nonsense that you just wrote….The players are the ONLY side that has moved at all in this fiasco!

        Now as far as blaming Bettman goes…..People keep saying “he’s just the messenger” and “it’s not him, it’s the owners”…..What those people are over looking is the fact that as long as the NHL owns Phoenix Bettman is an owner because he controls the Phoenix vote (which I very much doubt is coincidental) So I say blaming Bettman is not only smart but totally just! As long as this a$$hole is in charge of the league we (the fans) will keep having to endure these f’n lock outs!……He has to go period!

    • windmiller4 - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:50 PM

      it doesn’t matter if you’re putting a 1st or 4th line guy in the meetings, what matters is that they’re educated. They need to send guys like George Parros and Kevin Westgarth, who are both Ivy League Grads. It seems like a decent idea to me, instead of fighting over the money through Bettman and Fehr, the players and owners can sit down face to face and not have to deal with the middleman.

      • kikinite01 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:46 AM

        Another Ivy League guy – Dominic Moore.

      • hazlydose - Dec 1, 2012 at 7:26 PM

        Craig Adams, penguins fourth liner, graduated from Harvard and is the team’s player rep…

    • delsj - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:56 PM

      So you have a problem with greedy owners wanting more profits, but see no problem with Crosby wanting to secure his own interests in high end long term contracts that the “4th liner” will never see. A union is supposed to protect all its constituents. I guess some folks in the NHLPA are more equal than others.

      • davebabychreturns - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:06 AM

        Kind of like how a small group of owners are being represented by Gary Bettman in the CBA negotiations and a large group of owners who just want to put their teams on the ice are being more or less ignored.

  4. capesouth - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Good idea. They are the ones with something to lose in this. It is worth a shot. They can have an open discussion vs filtering talks through Fehr and Bettman. If this doesn’t work, there are many options left and the season is likely canned unless one side randomly caves.

    • capesouth - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:16 PM


  5. bcsteele - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Am I the only one that thinks (while I still think its a stretch to be positive) this is an excellent idea?

    Think about it, no Bettman…no Fehr…talk about removing two of the biggest egos from the block party. At least worth a shot…not like anything else has moved this along.

    • stakex - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      Agreed. Bettman and Fehr seem to really hate eachother, and are both fighting to get a deal done for someone else. It might be easier for the players/owners to talk to eachother directly.

      That is of course if Fehr ever lets that happen. If he honestly does want to see a deal done, he will. If however he is in fact not being completely up front with the players (as the owners have suggested), he’ll never go for this.

    • woodstakes - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:30 AM

      I agree with you bcsteele.. but ONLY if ALL the owners are there and only if ALL the owners can speak!! Not just Jacobs… may as well have Bettman in there then. I want to here what Mike Ilitch(Det), Craig Leipold(Wild), Jeffery Vanderbeek(NJ), James Dolan(NYR), Mario Lemieux & Ron Burkle(Pit) have to say. WE already know what Jacobs has to say. I’d like to hear from a mix of high profit NHL ownership (Dolan), not so profitable (Leipold/Vanderbeek) and from someone who knows this fight from BOTH sides of the wall (Lemieux). Because, I may be alone here but I don’t think everyone of those owners are behind this lockout going this long on the issues that are the sticking point right now.

  6. gc19 - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    They probably can’t even agree to do that.

  7. joeyashwi - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    IF…and that’s a big IF, the players and owners meet and get something accomplished, could we finally agree both Bettman and Fehr are complete poisons to the process and be relieved of their duties immediately? If Bettman’s job is to represent the owners and he gets paid $8 million a year to do just that, why would he even be employed if they can’t get anything done with him in the room. All this is hypothetical of course. I’m almost to the point of not caring anymore so a big thank you to both sides.

  8. capesouth - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Maybe I don’t completely understand the dynamic here but what right does Fehr have to deny this offer? The players are the ones with everything to lose here. With the way this thing has gone, Fehr should move aside and see what happens. If it were the other way around, Bettman would be just as dumb to think he should deny such an offer. The season is about to be lost so move away Bettman and Fehr. let them talk.

    • tatdue - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:23 PM

      Fehr does what the players want him to do….If the players want to do this they will, simple as that. There are no special rules like Bettman has. When it comes to Fehr, if the players want him gone then he’s gone. The PA is democratic unlike the owners side of things….

  9. ducksk - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    I say get them in a room, look each other in the eyes, knuckle down and hash out deal. No doubt owners have upper hand, but, maybe they can throw a few more crumbs out for players to make them feel like it was not all for naught. Or maybe not. Fed mediators fail as predicted. Another waste of time and taxpayer $. Their history in sports mediation is abysmal (research it). Lets move on. I miss the NHL and watching it with my sons. I don’t claim to be an insider, but, I know enough that I am not alone, be it owner, player, or FAN!

  10. id4joey - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    If my job was to protect the best interests of the players, then there is no way this would fly. This would be like throwing children in the lion’s den. No way! If we’re an owner, then I’d be licking my chops. Bring into our den.

    I think Fehr owes it to the players not to let them fall for this.

    • stakex - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      While most hockey players (and pro athleats in general) are dumb as fence posts, there are some smart guys mixed in. Some of them have been been heavily involved in the discussions thus far, and could easily lead the players into one on one talks with the owners.

      In the end any deal will still have to go through Fehr and the union, so what is there to lose?

      • id4joey - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:59 PM

        It’s not about their lack of brains, but more so about their lack of experience. Do you seriously think they can go head to head with the owners to resolve their issues? Besides, it like asking a couple to negotiate the terms of their divorce.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Nov 29, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      The NFL lockout didn’t get any momentum going towards a settlement until they got the lawyers out of the room and got people like Jeff Saturday and Robert Kraft into the room to work through their issues. If the season is going to be cancelled why not look into the eyes of the other side and tell them exactly what your issues are rather than letting your representative tell their representative.

    • valoisvipers - Nov 29, 2012 at 10:46 PM

      Sadly being pro-owner I must agree with you ID4joey, sending the players in to meet with the owners would indeed friend be like taking candy from a baby.Just as you say Fehr will have to not agree to this type of meeting to protect the players from them selves.

      • williplett - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:23 AM

        I’m just curious why anybody would describe themselves as “pro-owner”? Can you explain what led you to that position?

      • valoisvipers - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:44 AM

        @williplett Yes I am on the owners side. My reasoning being that I want a league where all 30 teams can have an equal chance at winning the Cup and not just the wealthy few. I’m sure everyone here at PHT has had sometime complained at how much this player or that player signed for. Grinder wages are 2.5 million a year. Last year $5.70 of a $10 beer went to the players, owners buy the beer, pay the vender and all other expenses out of their $4.30 and if there is no profit left well then go ahead and raised the price of the beer to $12. The same way it has driven up ticket prices over the years to the point where it is no longer affordable for the average fan. It is a viscous circle and is not healthy for the league nor the fans.

      • williplett - Nov 30, 2012 at 5:30 PM

        Since the last lockout there have been seven Cups awarded and it has been a different team each time. It was the first title for three of those franchises (Carolina, Anaheim and Los Angeles), the first title in decades for two original six teams (Chicago and Boston), the first title in nearly twenty years for another team (Pittsburgh) and Detroit won again after a six year “drought”. Plus, three different Canadian franchises made it to the finals during the post lockout era. This lockout has NOTHING to do with parity and a chance for every team to win it all. The post ’04-’05 era has given us the greatest run of diversity in champions that the NHL has ever seen.

        Also, the price of beer has been high at events of all kinds for years. I’ve been to dozens of hockey games in my life and if there is one thing I’ve learned it is this: if you wanna drink, do it somewhere else before you get inside the arena. Kinda like how everything at movie concession stands cost three times as much as it does outside of a movie theatre. Everybody knows this and has known it for decades. This is not something that can be blamed on the NHL over-paying fourth liners.

    • isithockeyseasonyet - Nov 30, 2012 at 4:27 AM

      for serious? what do you think will happen? the owners pull out some jedi mind trick and convince the PA they dont need fehr? (and maybe they dont but im not saying that). is there really something to lose by trying? its nard not to be pessimistic, or am i wrong? so if thats the case, let them try.

      • valoisvipers - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:05 AM

        @isit I would love to have this meeting happen but the deck would be well stacked against the players. Who do you think would have the edge, billionaire businessmen with their ivy league educations and wealth of experience or young men with high school degrees (maybe)? Lets face it when Fehr says 50-50 the players think that is the offer but we all know Fehr’s 50-50 is no where close to 50-50. I’m sure you have read most of the proposals as have I and I must be truthful, that to fully understand the wording and gramifications of the text one would need a lot of specialized education.

  11. capsfan19 - Nov 29, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    Get milan lucic in there, he’d say this, “god id like to hit him like i did to ryan miller…”

    • sabatimus - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:08 PM

      Only if Lucic gets to punch his Jeremy Jacobs.

    • sabatimus - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:08 PM

      Only if Lucic gets to punch Jeremy Jacobs.

  12. sabatimus - Nov 29, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    All we need is Shawn Thornton, Eric Boulton, and Chris Neil, and the matter is settled.

  13. sreske93 - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    Doesn’t matter when this “50-50” split gets done. When this CBA runs out, the owners are gonna lockout again until they get the majority of the money anyways

  14. rainyday56 - Nov 30, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    The meeting would be the players, Jacobs and a couple of Boston bozos with lead pipes to help drive home the point, old school. Just like they did in the good ol’ daze.

  15. tfaltin - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    Good idea, Gary. The first step to recovery is admitting you (and Donny) are the problem. I’m very skeptical of his reasoning for this. I’m sure he has connived some way for him to emerge in a positive light among the owners, but this can be viewed as a concession (his only thus far) that he cannot effectively do his job. If an agreement happens (I’ll take “traction”) through this meeting, isn’t it essentially grounds for his own dismissal? If he’s the agent of the owners, and the owners had to do it themselves, why should he be kept around?

    On the other side, if the meeting happens and everyone just wants to get the season started, Don has to accept that the players are satisifed to whatever terms may exist and let it happen.

  16. desertfan - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I am a 30 year veteran of the world of FREE ENTERPRISE and have grown up not really liking unions period.
    As with most unions this one does fall into a mold of representing ALL vesus letting the chips fall as they should.

    I have been forced to fly with air flight attendants who hated their work but wanted to protect their tenure.

    I I were ever forced and have nearly been there buy the sloths who use backdoor means to force a union on a business I would sell or close it immediately.

    Here you are witnessing a failed business because of a union.

    Decertify but not as a negotiating tactic but for real.

    When formes some 30 years ago the players we uneducated, without representation and tossed around easily by the owners.

    The world has changed and it is time for the NHL to join it.

    Imagine a league in which all teams must thrive or perish and players can sign for 50 years or 1 year for $100M.
    Intelligence would return.
    Better find a smart GM or you are dead meat.
    One that can sell tix, negotiate local TV deals, sign players and run a business.
    Franchises would be where they belong based on fiscal intelligence and fan support.
    The Unions days have passed us by.

    • woodstakes - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      Comparing a sport PA whether its NHLPA, NFLPA or MLBPA to UAW, Teamsters or any of the other major unions is NOT a fair comparison. Professional athletic unions are way more dissimilar than they are similar to other standard unions.

  17. manchestermiracle - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    To hell with mediators and any more meetings, where’s the binding arbitrator when you need him?

  18. 4everflyers - Nov 30, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    heres a stupid idea…nhlpa put up their contract, have the owners line up and sign if they like it. if they get 16+ teams to sign, start the season. the owners that didn’t sign, keep them locked out.

  19. fortwaynekomets - Nov 30, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    who gives a ********* s**** anymore???

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