Between the Penguins practice at Southpointe and an NHLPA teleconference today, we caught up with forward Craig Adams, the Penguins union representative, to ask him about the state of things as the lockout rolls on. There was a hint optimism when we learned that a call between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr went beyond the normal touch-base level earlier this week, although there was no immediate action, such as a formal bargaining session, that came from it.
Adams had some interesting things to say:
On the Daly-Fehr talks and Daly using the word "substantive": I know Bill and Steve have been talking, but that's not a new thing. What's come from that, or what could come from that, I'm not sure.
On the NHLPA wanting to resume formal negotiations: We've been pushing for that now for a week, 10 days.
On issues other the main core economics: There's a lot of stuff that I guess you could call less important, but it still affects the players. Whether it's drug testing, issues like travel, scheduling, safety -- there's a million different things that we've worked on. We've defnitely come to an agreement on some of those things. And then there's, I would say, the next tier of stuff, which people tend to brush aside, but it's very, very important, and that's the player contracting issues: the structure of entry-level contracts, free agency, arbitration, maximum length of deals, things like that. That's probably not as important as the big number, but it's still very, very important. It's all tied in. If you want to have growth in salaries and guys to be able to have leverage in contract negotiations and flexibility throughout their careers, then you need to have some of those things.
On common ground regarding those three tiers of issues: First tier [travel, safety, etc.] You've seen what their proposals were and you've seen what our proposals were. You can see that we don't see eye-to-eye on those things.
On how quickly a resolution could be reached if things got rolling: It could be done in a couple of weeks. Of course. Why not? I mean, I'm not saying I'm betting it will be, but absolutely it could. How long does it take to sit down and say, 'We want free agency to stay at 27 [years old].' And they say, 'Well, we want it to be at 28.' Those are important things. You always think that there's a deal there to be made until someone takes what you think is an unreasonable position, and then it's back to a standstill. But the toughest issue right now is figuring out how the shares [of revenue] are divided.
On expectations that the Winter Classic will be canceled: My reaction on the surface would be that it's premature, but I'm not the one that has to invest the money. I don't know all the logistics and commitments that go into it. It's their game, and they're the ones that put all the work into setting it up and make the big investment. If they feel that they can't reasonably keep it as an option, then they'll cancel it. Anything that brings in revenue, that fans enjoy and players enjoy and TV audiences like, that's good for everybody.
On the idea that that the league and the union are in a partnership: Gary [Bettman, NHL commissioner] threw around the word "partnership" a lot in 2004. I think we've kind of all agreed to accept the fact that that doesn't exist. I haven't heard it this time around, which is probably a good thing.
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