Nightmare in New York

What an emotional roller coaster the NHL lockout has become. Not only for the league’s loyal fans, but Gary Bettman too, according to the NHL commissioner who spoke at a press conference last night in New York. When new faces such as Ron Burkle began to take part in the negotiations, there was much more optimism than ever before. On Tuesday, the talks were going well. On Wednesday, according to Bettman, things went sour again.

Thursday may have been one of the most bizarre events in NHL history. After about an hour of talks, the NHL left the hotel and did not specify if they would come back. Donald Fehr, the leader of thNHLPA, then came up to the podium and told the media that a deal was within reach and that the two sides were close to a deal with only a couple of issues remaining to hammer out. Shortly after Fehr’s press conference, he came back to the podium. Many of the players were on their cell phones before Fehr came back. No one knew what was going on, including Sidney Crosby, who looked puzzled. In e Fehr’s second press conference, he stated that the NHL had left a voicemail that said that  they had rejected the proposal the NHLPA offered. In addition, everything that they talked about was thrown off the table. Bettman later confirmed that statement in another press conference after Fehr’s. The NHL commissioner looked extremely angry in his press conference as he called this process “horrible.” Bettman added that the two sides have broken off talks for the moment and will need to regroup. A 48-game season was suggested by Bettman as the lowest amount of possible games that they can play.

Even the moderate owners released statements that suggested that none of them could reach a deal with Fehr. Here is Ron Burkle’s statement:

“The idea to put players and owners together in the same room was a refreshing idea. Commissioner Bettman should be thanked for proposing it and the Fehrs should be thanked for agreeing to it.

The players came with a strong desire to get back to playing hockey. They were professional and did a good job of expressing their concerns and listening to ours. We wanted to move quickly and decisively. We have all spent too much time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsors and the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal. Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didn’t hold back.

We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. |t’s not what they do and they wanted us to know they were committed.

We understood and appreciate their situation. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach.

We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and “non-negotiable” decision – which is their right, to end the player/owner process that has moved us farther in two days than we have moved at any time in the past months.

I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried to reach a deal.

I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.”

 

It is clear that both sides deserve some blame for this horrible lockout, but another interesting story developed late Thursday night when a player told the Denver Post and SI.com, “We were ready to play again. But Don came in (Wednesday) and told us we could get more and to hold out.”

No talks have been scheduled as of this morning. Stay tuned for more updates.