At midnight on Sept. 15, the National Hockey League locked out its players for the third time in 17 years. Thirty-nine days later, that lockout is continuing and shows no signs of ending any time soon.
On Tuesday, the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) requested to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, but Daly said he did not see why a meeting would be necessary.
“They have made it clear to us that they have very little interest in the proposal we made [on Oct. 16],” Daly said to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. “[The NHLPA] also told us they have no intention of making a new proposal. I’m not sure what we would be meeting about.”
When the NHL made their latest proposal on Oct. 16, Bettman set today as the deadline for the league to begin the season on Nov. 2 and play a full 82-game season. After the two sides failed to reach an agreement last week, the NHL cancelled games through Nov. 1. Now, it seems the two sides can’t even agree to meet, meaning a new deal cannot be made.
The NHLPA has made it clear to the league that they “are willing to meet tomorrow or any other date, without preconditions, to try to reach an agreement,” NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon told LeBrun.
NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr said that no deal can be made if the league is not willing to negotiate.
“The league is apparently unwilling to meet,” Fehr said. “That is unfortunate as it is hard to make progress without talking.”
It seems as if the money issues have been solved, as both sides have made offers that include a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue, the main sticking point of an agreement. But now the issue of “making whole” on players’ current contracts has arrived. Players want the NHL to honor their current contracts right away and not pay back the money owed to them over time. The NHL, although they do want to “make whole” on players’ current deals, does not see that as a feasible option.
In the past three years, the National Football League and National Basketball Association have endured lengthy lockouts, prior to this latest NHL lockout. In those respective lockouts, however, fans noticed that both sides would negotiate for eight to 10 hours per day or more in some cases. The parties involved in the NHL lockout have not met for more than two hours during any negotiating session, which makes fans wonder if they are bargaining in good faith.
“As Wayne Gretzky said, ‘you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,'” Ramapo junior and hockey fan Brian Ooms said. “If the two sides aren’t willing to take a shot and actually get together and negotiate, nothing will be accomplished.”
In September, Ooms said that, to him, “both sides are just greedy … they’re making millions of dollars and still aren’t satisfied.”
Now, 39 days into the lockout, it seems that Ooms’ prophecy of both sides being greedy has come true, as both the players and owners will not budge from what they want. The lack of willingness to negotiate a new deal is making the 2012-2013 season look more unlikely to take place with each passing day.