Bears

NHL rejects players' attempt to restart talks

922801.png

NHL rejects players' attempt to restart talks

The little hope that existed for a full NHL season appears to be gone.

Shortly after the players' reached out to the league on Tuesday night to restart stalled labor negotiations, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly rebuffed the union's attempt.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week, in presenting the league's most recent offer to the players, that if a new collective bargaining agreement wasn't reached by this Thursday, it would be impossible for a full regular-season schedule to be played.

No talks have been scheduled, and no last-minute discussions seem to be on tap.

"I don't anticipate any taking place for the balance of the week," Daly said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "The Union has rejected the proposal we made last Tuesday and is not offering another one. We see nothing to be gained at this point by meeting just to meet."

Following a call for the union's executive board Tuesday night, the players' association informed the NHL it is willing to meet on Wednesday "or any other date, without preconditions, to try to reach an agreement."

"We hope to hear from them soon," NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said.

The NHL's response wasn't what the union had hoped to hear.

The sides haven't met since the NHL turned down three counterproposals from the union on Thursday, two days after the NHL's offer that included a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue.

The developments on Tuesday night came hours after more discourse between the sides on the 38th day of the league's lockout.

While negotiators for the NHL and union kept conversations to a minimum, club officials had a brief window last week to discuss the league's latest proposal.

Those secretive discussions haven't produced any breakthrough, but they have inflamed an already unsettled atmosphere. The union hierarchy wasn't informed about the window then, and isn't happy about it.

"Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings," players' association special counsel Steve Fehr said. "No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot."

The NHL said Tuesday that team officials were able to have temporary contact with players, although there were parameters regarding what could be discussed.

"From our perspective, this is a nonissue and a nonstory," Daly said Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There is nothing legally or otherwise that precludes club personnel from communicating with their players."

But, more important, is the fact that NHL officials aren't haven't productive talks with union leaders. Now it seems that a full season, starting on Nov. 2, won't take place.

As of now, the league has called off all games through Nov. 1. Without a deal this week, those games are in danger of being called off for good.

Last week, the NHL's most recent contract offer was presented to the union and then publicly released in full. The union returned to the bargaining table last Thursday with its various counterproposals, that would also get to an even split of hockey revenue, but each was quickly rejected by the league.

There is a major divide between the sides over how to deal with existing player contracts. The union wants to ensure that those are all paid in full without affecting future player contracts.

No negotiations have taken place since last week, but the sides held two conference calls over the weekend to address questions the union had regarding the NHL offer.

After the NHL released it on Wednesday, club officials were given until Friday to speak to players and answer questions they might have about the proposal.

In an internal league memo obtained by The Canadian Press, the NHL stated that those discussions must be limited to the contents of the proposal on the table. It also provided examples of questions that shouldn't be asked of players and noted that straying from the rules could "cause serious legal problems."

"You may not ask (a player) what he or others have in mind," the memo stated. "If he volunteers what he has in mind you should not respond positively or negatively or ask any questions but instead refer him to the NHLPA.

"Likewise, you may not suggest hypothetical proposals that the league might make in the future or that the league might entertain from the union."

This was the first time club officials were permitted by the NHL to talk to players since the lockout took effect Sept. 16.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

charleslenojr.jpg
USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the team as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears' blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make him and his linemates better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

4-16mattnagy.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”