Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the world of aviation, a holding pattern
is when an aircraft is forced to fly in a circular path until the pilot is
given clearance to land.
Back on the ground the phrase is used to describe a situation that has become
static. After several recent labor meetings produced no progress, the NHL also
could be said to be in a holding pattern, but it'd be more accurate to say that
the league's negotiations have barely gotten off the ground.
With little more than a week to go until the scheduled start of the 2012-13
NHL season, neither side entangled in the league's labor battle seems willing
to move an inch.
The owners are adamant that players agree to salary rollbacks and the NHLPA
considers that proposal to be a non-starter. Also looming large is the fact the
sides still have gained no ground in how hockey-related revenue should be
defined in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, each passing day sees more NHLers heading overseas to skate in
Europe's numerous professional leagues. If I were a betting man, I'd say those
players will be keeping their new European addresses past Oct. 11, when the NHL
is officially supposed to start the 2012-13 season.
Unless one of the two sides in this debate is bluffing and is ready to cave
over the next few days, the NHL will be forced to begin canceling regular-
season games this week. A report surfaced last week that the league is
planning to eliminate games in two-week blocks, meaning the first cancellation
would take us through Oct. 25.
Judging by the comments made by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA
head Donald Fehr on Tuesday the first round of cancellations seems inevitable.
The fact that representatives of the owners and players met a few times over
the past week was a good sign ostensibly, but that was before Daly and Fehr
doused any positive feelings with cold water.
"I'm really not sure where we go from here," Daly said. "We have done
everything we can think of to try to engage the PA and invite them into a
negotiation. But they aren't biting. I guess their definition of negotiating
is making a proposal and standing pat until the other side accepts it."
Fehr responded to that statement by saying "maybe somebody ought to look in
the mirror over there."
"They have made some incremental moves," Fehr added. "It's clear that the
players have made substantial moves towards the owners and the owners
have made substantial moves away from the players."
However, amidst all the doom and gloom a potential solution to the labor
strife was floated to both Daly and Fehr and neither man dismissed the idea at
first. That idea was getting a federal mediator involved to help move the
owners and players beyond the current impasse.
Still, telling a group of reporters that your side is not opposed to mediation
is not the same as formally agreeing to it as a solution. Both sides seem
intent on winning the fight to define the next CBA and that could make them
wary of giving up control in how they wage that war to a mediator.
In other words, things would probably have to get really bad before either
side agreed to let an outside party settle the argument. According to Daly,
the league projects that it has already lost $100 million due to the loss of
the entire preseason schedule, but that barely moves the dial for a league
that boasted revenues in excess of $3 billion in 2011-12.
I suppose when you're surrounded by nothing but rain clouds, even the slightest
glimpse of blue sky is better than nothing at all.
The Sports Network