BIG BREAKING NEWS from the NHL labour talks today: the announcement of a deadline to get something done to save the 2005 season.
Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow were talking today in top secret talks. And the union flatly rejected a proposal by the league which would have seen an institution of a collective bargaining agreement with a 24% rollback of salaries, and the imposition of a salary cap if it did not work.
To a lot of people this would seem like a big compromise offer by the NHL but the union smelled a rat, felt it would be another fancy way for the NHL to impose a salary cap on the players, and turned it down flat.
Bettman later met the media for what seemed like the first time in ages and told them that in order to salvage any portion of this season they needed to be in negotiations and drawing up the agreement on Friday and Saturday and Sunday. The league may make yet another offer tomorrow. But I have to be frank. I don't think the union will ever accept a salary cap, ever, based on what went down today. Supposedly some NHL owners thought Bettman was crazy to make the proposal he made today, thought it was a big sellout. Well, they don't have to worry about that now, the union turned it down.
If a deal gets done the league says it will have a 28-game regular season with every team playing within their own conference during the regular season. The playoffs would proceed basically same as usual, only change is they'd be handing out the Cup in July and they'll have ice issues all over the league during the playoffs. But other than that, it'll be fine. What a joke. Someone please tell the National Hockey League that hockey is supposed to be played in the winter, that summer is baseball season? Man!
Last week I said that the more these two sides talked the better it would get. Now they're just dragging out the talks and neither side will move. I don't see how they will move off their positions by this weekend, but they have to move off their positions.
At least we know now that the end to all this nonsense is coming, finally, and we can either get on with the season, or our lives, whatever the case may be. This is it, this time.