Looking For The Next Step
NEW YORK--If people keep leaving, it may come down to an arm wrestle between Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr.
Jonathan Toews and Craig Adams left town on Wednesday. Today, Larry Tanenbaum and Mark Chipman bolted, and so did David Backes, the power centre of the St. Louis Blues. As tensions rise and tempers grow short, and with Bettman and Fehr expected to be back in the thick of things for the next meeting, the identities of who's here and who isn't continues to be a changing dynamic.
This we know. The owners-players format appears to be done. Mediation, requested by the players and denied by the owners today, isn't an option. When talks began around 5:15 p.m., Bettman wasn't in the room, and neither were any owners. It was Bill Daly and outside counsel Bob Batterman on the league side, with the Fehr Bros. and a number of players speaking for the union. By 6:07, the meeting was over, with no word on further talks.
The absence of Bettman was intriguing. Either the league doesn't want to antagonize the players at this delicate stage, or in a more cynical way of looking at things, maybe the commish knows this is doomed to fail and is looking to skirt any blame.
Eventually, it's got to come down to Bettman and Fehr, and it's probably got to come down to making a deal or not making a deal, with both sides having already lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 82 days.
"Only one that could mess this up is Fehr and we are headed down that road. I still haven't lost hope but....," tweeted ex-NHLer Matthew Barnaby.
"If their is no hockey right now it has nothing to do with Don Fehr... Bettman had a date in mind a year ago," tweeted P.A. Parenteau of the New York Islanders.
The length of the next CBA has become a major issue. It shouldn't be, as 10 years makes a lot of sense to give this sport a chance to grow without the threat of labour stoppages.
"I love 10 years. Hell, I'd take 12 years," said one player agent, who said he believes there's enough in the mix now to make a deal today.
Fehr, however, seems against the idea, arguing that so many players will have changed over the next five years that its not fair to stick them with a deal they didn't negotiate.
Surely, that can't be the dealbreaker. But at this point, really, what should be?