Bill Daly and Steve Fehr Both Doubt that Opposing Parties Really Want to Bring an End to the NHL Lockout

November 26, 2012 – 6:15 am by Brad Gagnon

The NHL lockout continues with games through Dec. 14 canceled late last week and the All-Star Game getting the ax, too. Fans are concerned, because meetings between the league and its players are few and far between. NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly wasn’t thrilled with the players’ latest proposal, while NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr wasn’t satisfied with the league’s response.

Bill Daly and Steve Fehr joined Daren Millard, Brad May, and John Shannon in separate interviews on The Fan 590 in Toronto to discuss the state of discussions between the NHL and its players’ association attempting to negotiate a new labor deal, decertification, mediation, and the latest proposals that were exchanged.

Daly on the conversation he had with Fehr Friday:

“We kind of reviewed where we are, and obviously from their perspective I don’t think, at least currently, they’re inclined to further counter from where we ended up on Wednesday. We’re gonna obviously review where we are with our negotiating committee … and we’ll figure out where we go from there.”

Fehr on the possibility that the union decertifies to take the league to court:

“We do not talk about what is discussed in private conversations with players. Players are free to say what they want, obviously, and some have. So I’m not gonna talk about that in any detail, but suffice it to say that all things are under consideration and we’ll see how it goes.”

Daly on if the prospect of decertification scares him:

“No. For better or for worse, I grew up as a lawyer, spent probably 15 to 20 years of my career working in this area of the law. … And right after I left private practice and decided to join the National Hockey League, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling … which basically said that antitrust law actually has no role to play in labor disputes and set a very, very high standard for a union or group of players or group of workers ever being able to invoke the antitrust law or antitrust liability as a threat in these types of situations. So as a result, it has really never successfully been asserted as a threat in any of these situations, and certainly I wouldn’t view an antitrust lawsuit in this case to be anything other than an unfortunate development, because I think it’s a time-consuming process that would likely lead to the end of the season.”

Daly on why the two sides can’t be meeting more frequently and for longer periods of time:

“It’s the dynamics of a collective bargaining negotiation. And not all dynamics are the same. … There are positions each side has to take and there’s a lot of tactics and strategy involved in terms of what you put on the table, and when and in what context. … Everybody who has been involved in negotiations understands that. It’s an unfortunate part of the process, and you deal with it and you make the best of it, and you try to move it forward. I’ll be the first to admit this process has played out not as we would have hoped or expected and we hate where we are, and wish we were in a better place, and we feel badly for everybody involved in the game.”

Fehr on why the two sides can’t be meeting more frequently and for longer periods of time:

“Don’t have an answer to that. As you know, our general position is we are available to meet anytime. I don’t know what we have to say right now — we don’t have any proposals for them because we made very, very significant movement on Wednesday. We moved a couple of miles and they moved a couple of inches, I think is fair to say. If they want to meet, we’re ready to meet anytime. Don is only a few blocks from Bill.”

Daly on the nature of the negotiations:

“It’s not a philosophical negotiation. It’s really, for the most part, it’s a negotiation over money, and I don’t really understand how we got to where we are.”

Fehr on if he believes the NHL treated their latest proposal seriously:

“I don’t want to characterize it in that way. They didn’t dismiss it in 10 minutes as they had to several others things they’d done over the course of negotiations. They did take two or three hours to prepare a response. They did move on some things, but on the things that matter — the dollars, the free-agency rights, the salary arbitration rights, some of the other player-contracting rights they’re trying to take a meat ax to — there was no movement. If it was Thanksgiving dinner, they gave us the relish tray, but no turkey. “

Daly on claims that they aren’t negotiating in good faith after their latest response to the union:

“We thought it was actually a very constructive response. We moved in a lot of the areas we thought were very important to the players. And we tried to be as sensitive and responsive to their issues as possible. We had told them what our position was on various issues in advance, so the fact that there was not significant movement in some areas shouldn’t have come as a major surprise to them. We would have hoped for a better response than we got, but we got what we got. We understand we continue to be far apart and we’ll try to continue to move this forward.”

Daly on getting closer last week:

“I think we got closer on Wednesday just in terms of understanding framing the issues, maybe moving a little closer in certain areas.”

Fehr on the financial concessions the union has made:

“It’s now clear that in terms of dollars, the parties are only $182 million apart over five years. … The players moved a long way. They’ve given the owners concessions that really are fairly valued at $1 billion or more, but not prepared to go any further right now.”

Daly on mediation:

“I’ve also said I’d be open to it. I’m not sure it’s the best way to move the process forward.”

Fehr on if the union wants to get a deal done:

“Of course we want to get a deal done. It’s why we’ve been at it, why we’ve been working so hard trying to do it.”

Fehr on if he thinks the league wants to get a deal done:

“We have our doubts.”

Fehr on why they have those doubts:

“The way the entire course of negotiations has played out, the strategy of first lockout and then see what happens, the insistence on nearly every major issue that things be within their structure. And certainly the failure to see significant movement in response to the very significant movement the players made Wednesday.”

Daly on if he thinks the NHLPA wants to get a deal done:

“I’ve had my doubts and concerns at certain points in time. I would hope that the players want to play and want to have a season, but I’m not sure, at the end of the day, that unless it’s on certain terms, that union leadership necessary shares that goal.”

Fehr on the harsh words some players have had for Gary Bettman and the NHL:

“I don’t think it’s helpful for players to use pejorative words, and you try and tamp that down to the extent that you can. But this is very emotional. This is players’ careers that they are playing with, that they are messing with. Players will never get back the games that they are losing. So it’s hard to keep it under wraps. But to the extent that you can keep it tamped down a little, keep the rhetoric down, because eventually you have to do something and live with these people.”

Listen to Bill Daley on The Fan 590 here and listen to Steve Fehr on The Fan 590 here

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