Fehr passes puck to NHL
Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, was a guest speaker at a CAW-TCA conference in Toronto on Saturday. (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)
Donald Fehr didn’t outright say the lockout ball is in the National Hockey League’s court.
“I don’t characterize things that way,” the NHLPA boss said on Saturday. But he intimated the next move — when and how talks might resume — will be up to Gary Bettman and the league’s owners.
“It’s up to them. They’re the ones that called a halt to the process,” he told a group of reporters.
Fehr, speaking at a Canadian Auto Workers Union pow-wow at a downtown Toronto hotel, received full backing from the 800 or so people in attendance and was given standing ovations before and after his speech, which touched on the NHL labour talks, albeit in very general terms.
His appearance came on the heels of talks between the NHLPA and league owners on Thursday, which appeared extremely positive before ending in spontaneous combustion when the league turned down an offer by the players association.
Fehr refused to sling any mud when asked about the breakdown in New York earlier in the week, choosing instead to spread a message that could be categorized as some sort of grey area between optimism, pessimism, defiance and exhaustion.
“It seemed to me that we ought to be able to move forward and finish it off, but so far, at least, (the league has) not indicated a willingness to continue discussions.
“You keep negotiating and you see what happens. When you’re in a negotiation, you keep at it until you reach an agreement.”
Fehr said he has not had any direct contact with commissioner Bettman or deputy commissioner Bill Daly since Thursday. But he insists the sides were “very close” to reaching a deal and he remains hopeful the season can be salvaged.
The sides are at loggerheads over various issues, chiefly profit sharing, contracts and the salary cap.
“One would hope that, sooner than later, we resume negotiations and we figure out a way through this,” Fehr said. “The one thing we know for certain is you can’t reach agreements if you’re not talking about it.”
If there’s a general feeling among the players following Thursday’s dramatic breakdown, it appears to one of frustration.
“You feel like you’re doing things to try to genuinely come to an agreement, and it just gets thrown back in your face,” said free agent defenceman Chris Campoli, who has been heavily involved as a member of the players bargaining committee. “It’s just frustrating.”