The NHL's new television contract and the end of the baseball season could have an effect on labor negotiations, which were scheduled to resume Friday.
The meeting is the first in more than a week between the league and the NHL Players Association. The players are expecting the owners to lock them out unless a collective bargaining agreement is signed before Oct. 1.On Monday, the NHL signed a $155 million, five-year television deal with Fox. Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHLPA, said the Fox contract will have some bearing on negotiations, "but to what degree I don't know."
With the end of the baseball season now a certainty, a sense of urgency has arrived for the two sides to avoid similar circumstances.
"I have a theory that everything is linked. I wish it was true so I could hold a news conference and announce an agreement on our other negotiations. We're keeping the lines of communication open. As long as we're talking, it's a positive sign," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Ken Baumgartner said the baseball cancellation has thrown all of pro sports into uncharted waters.
"We hope we have labor peace by the time the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around in April, but we now know nothing is sacred when there is substantial money on the table," he said. "In light of what has happened in baseball, it's hard to be optimistic."
Added Toronto general manager Cliff Fletcher: "I think it (the baseball strike) just confirms that it's prudent that both sides in hockey exercise their mandate responsibly, and work diligently to get a deal done.
"In hockey, we have a very different situation from baseball. We're trying to get an agreement done. The players aren't on strike and the owners haven't locked anyone out."
The NHL has been without a collective bargaining agreement since September 1983. The big issue is salaries. The NHL wants to link revenues and salaries along with some form of revenue-sharing. Players want nothing to do with any kind of salary cap.
Bettman has talked of a "next generation" system that links revenues and salaries. He's proposed a number of concepts, including a pyramid payroll structure that would slot salaries according to percentages of team revenues.