The following is a transcript of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s news conference with reporters Tuesday after the league’s owners offered the players a 50-50 split in hockey related revenue:
As I think all of you know we have been extremely disappointed – and that’s an understatement – that we have been unable to get these negotiations on the essential elements moving forward.
So today, we began by discussing with Don [Fehr] and Steve [Fehr] if we were to drop the puck on November 2nd for the start of the regular season we could preserve an 82-game schedule for the regular season and play full playoffs as we normally do and be done before the end of June. We very much want to preserve a full 82-game season and in that light we made a proposal – an offer, really. It is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs.
This offer that we made, obviously, was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season. While you know we don’t negotiate publicly and I’m not going to break that habit that we have formed because I don’t think it’s constructive, the fact of the matter is we offered a 50-50 share of HRR – hockey related revenues – and we believe we addressed the concern that players have about what happens to their salaries as a result in this year of reducing the percentage from 57 to 50 percent.
Beyond that I don’t want to get into the substance other than to say we believe this is a fair offer for a long-term deal and it’s one we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on November 2nd, which backing up entails at least a one-week training camp. So we have about nine or 10 days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward. We hope that this effort that we’ve undertaken today will be successful because we know how difficult this all has been for everybody associated with the game, particularly our fans.
How confident are you that this will go forward?
We certainly hope it will. We’ve given it our best shot.
What was their reaction?
Their reaction was that they obviously need to study it. So we told them we’re available to them but they’re going to need some time to review it and I respect that portion of the process. Obviously, they’ve got to understand the offer and get comfortable with it.
Did the offer focus on just the core economic issues or was it the whole thing?
We had a number of significant elements that we believe can and should serve as the basis of a deal to get us playing hockey.
Why make the offer today?
Because if we want to preserve an 82-game regular season and you back up the timetable in terms of the schedule we needed to do it. By the way … the compression that would be involved is one additional game every five weeks. Beyond that we don’t think it would be good for the players or for the game. … If we didn’t do it now, if we didn’t put an offer on the table that we thought was fair and could get us playing hockey, then it probably wasn’t going to happen for a while because it’s done in the spirit of getting a full season in.
Is it 50-50 across the board or is it descending?
It’s 50-50 across the board.
How long would the contract be?
I’m not going to get into the specifics. We proposed a long-term contract we think that’s in everybody’s interests. That’s what we think our fans want.
Can you address how you address rollbacks or escrows?
There is no rollback and I’m not getting into the specifics. It would not be constructive at this point in time. The union has some work to do and we respect the process. I’ve probably gone further than I have in terms of discussing what we proposed at any other time but I’m not comfortable going any further. I’m more concerned about the process right now and getting us back on the ice.
How worried are you that they might say no and more of the season will be lost?
I don’t want to even go there.
Is the league amenable to playing an abbreviated schedule?
We’re focused on getting the puck dropped on November 2nd and playing a full 82-game regular season and full playoffs. That’s what this offer is all about.
Will you make plans to meet later in the week?
We’re going to be on call to them. They have some work to do internally. Obviously, we didn’t put this proposal this offer together overnight and they’re going to need a little bit of time to review it and I’m hoping that review will get us to a positive and constructive place.