Wednesday, August 18, 2004

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when!

Well actually with apologies to Vera Lynn, the two sides in the NHL dispute actually do know when they’ll meet again. Day planners have been marked for August 25th and 26th as well as August 31st and September 1st, as they try to come to some middle ground on the brewing crisis over salaries.

What they’ll talk about remains to be seen as neither side really has given any ground in the never ending debate on what the NHL will look like upon the end of the current collective agreement.

After five and half hours on Tuesday the best they could come up with was four more meetings to try to step back from the brink of a Hockey Armageddon. The leagues head legal advisor Bill Daly said that time was running short and regrettably the two sides were still quite far apart. He added that they need to start making some progress after the union rejected all six of the previously introduced league proposals.

With the negative reaction to those six ideas, Bill Goodenow and his team of negotiators now find themselves expected to introduce some talking points for the next set of meetings at the end of the month. Tuesday’s session was used up recounting the league’s view of the financial health of the league and its franchises. So far the union has come up with the concept of a luxury tax which so far has been firmly rejected by the owners group. They want a situation where revenues and costs are linked, the much ballyhooed cost certainty.

With time running out on the two sides the need to come to some arrangement by September 15th as the Hockey fan grows desperate. However, with the two sides taking five and a half hours to basically agree to disagree and to meet again to go through the motions, hope for a salvaging of the upcoming season is not being bounced around very much. Bill Daly has said that the league officials will make themselves available every day until the deadline to try and get this thing solved. But unless they have something of substance to talk about, you get the feeling that the phone won’t be ringing off the hook.

Neither side has come out and said that the start of the season is lost, but one can’t help but think that unless there is a sudden change of attitudes on both sides, all this talk is going to be just that, pointless talk. The only action we’ll see may be some form of job action either launched by the NHLPA or enforced by the league itself.

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