One day after seeing the NHL cancel games through Dec. 14, NHLPA executive director Don Fehr was in Atlantic City Saturday night, briefing 25 NHL players before a charity game for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
In a pre-game scrum with reporters at Caesar’s hotel, Fehr said he had not spoken with Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who earlier in the week said he was “disgusted” with the lack of progress with CBA talks and that Fehr should be replaced if the 2012-13 season is canceled.
“Democracy can be a bit of a messy process sometimes,” Fehr told reporters. “But if you believe in free speech and you don’t believe in censorship, and you believe everybody’s entitled to their opinion, they speak it.
“We don't believe in censoring anybody. We don’t believe in telling anybody they can’t come to meetings and see for themselves. We’re different than the owners.”
According to Capitals teammate and alternate player rep Troy Brouwer, Hamrlik has not attended any NHLPA meetings or taken part in any conference calls during the 70-day work stoppage.
Fehr said it’s not uncommon for players to voice their displeasure during a work stoppage.
“Sometimes it’s what they mean,” he said. “Sometimes people get angry and frustrated and they vent. And then you talk to them, other players will talk to him from time to time, staff will talk to him and make sure you get the questions answered.”
Fehr said he, too, has been frustrated by the lack of progress in talks for a new CBA, especially after the union proposed an immediate 50-50 split in revenue but refused to accept the NHL’s restrictive measures on contracting rights.
The owners want to push back unrestricted free agency from age 27 or seven years of NHL service to 28 or eight years of service, reduce entry-level contracts from three to two years and place a five-year maximum on all future contracts.
The two sides are also $182 million apart on the NHL’s “make whole” provision but some believe the players would meet the NHL in the middle on that figure if they can keep their contractual rights.
With no negotiations planned, Fehr was asked if the two sides are any closer to ending the lockout.
“When we made our proposal on Wednesday, I thought the answer would be, ‘yes,’ but we didn’t get a response that suggested we are,” Fehr said.
“When you make a move towards them, if you’re going to have an agreement, somebody has to say, ‘yes,’ and ‘Now I can do this.’ Instead, they said, ‘yes,’ and ‘What else can you do for me?’”