A few weeks ago Capitals center Brooks Laich referred to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr as the tip of the sword in sports labor negotiations.
That tip is getting sharper by the day.
On Wednesday and Thursday Fehr will return to the bargaining table with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in hopes of kickstarting some meaningful negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But anyone who thinks Fehr is ready to make an offer that accepts an immediate rollback in salaries needs to hear what he told the Toronto Stars Editorial Board on Tuesday.
Maybe we should make a simple proposal that the starting point ought to be, maybe the players and owners each live up to the letter of the individual contracts, Fehr said. I dont think that would meet with a very good response in Garys office. But its not a bad thought.
Each of the NHLs proposals for a new CBA calls for a reduction of the players current salaries and the players have been adamant about keeping what is rightfully theirs.
The NHLPAs last proposal assured that the players share of NHL revenue, at 57 percent under the old agreement, would dip no lower than 52 percent. The NHLs proposal called for the players percentage to start at 49 percent and fall to 47 percent.
Even though the owners proposal went as far away from the players as they could, the players did not respond in kind, Fehr said. They made a proposal which moved in the owners direction. If there can be an agreement in a relatively short term, which puts the pieces back together and gets the season going, I think the players can live with that.
Question is, how long might it take before the two sides can find common ground? If an agreement is not reached by Dec. 1, there is a good chance the entire NHL season will be wiped out for the second time in nine years.
Fehr said he hopes this round of talks, which will begin with non-core economic issues, will help pave the way to more meaningful talks and eventual proposals. But with the first two weeks of the regular season already canceled, he seems to understand the clock is ticking.
Last season the NBA came to a tentative agreement with its players on Nov. 26 and opened a 66-game season on Christmas Day.
In basketball they played 75, 80 per cent of the season starting as late as Christmas. I do hope we start many weeks before Christmas, Fehr said.