What the Heck Just Happened?

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

“Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around this one.

“Are the owners and players really going to let the season get canned over the differences that remain in the two offers?

“…Are we really going to drop the ax on an entire season because the owners are THAT adamant about five-year term limits for player contracts? And are the players THAT opposed to five-year contract term limits to let an entire season’s worth of salary go down the drain?

“It’s pure madness in my opinion. All of it. Both sides.”

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press:

“Things went awry when owners expected the PA to cede on some issues in return for increasing the “make whole” provision to $300 million.”

Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Donald Fehr decides to strut in front of the cameras and essentially announce to the hockey world that the NHL lockout was all but over. This, mysteriously after the NHLPA requested mediation two hours earlier.

As Fehr’s announcing the union’s belief that they have completely agreed on dollars with the league, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly leaves a voicemail for Fehr’s brother, Steve, telling him the latest NHLPA proposal is rejected and talks are off.

Ten minutes after Donald Fehr told the hockey world the lockout was almost over, Fehr returns to deliver the news as players were about to talk to the press.

In New York tonight, Commissioner Gary Bettman angrily marched into the Westin and lambasted the union in a 34-minute news conference. At the end, reportedly, some players and Steve Fehr were even in the room listening to Bettman intently.

As I mentioned last night, the two sides were at a delicate juncture. It is now completely off the rails.

USA Today’s Kevin Allen:

“[Commissioner Gary] Bettman confirmed that the owners’ last offer is off the table, including the entire $300 make whole provision. That is an important issue because make whole, or transition payments as players call it, was made to assure that players with previously signed contracts wouldn’t lose money as their share of revenue fell from 57% to 50%.

“The loss of the make whole provision is major for the players who believe that they really needed $590 million to guarantee all existing contracts…

“Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey watched Bettman’s news conference from the back of the room…

“‘The NHL told players bringing [NHLPA leader Donald] Fehr into the room could be a deal-breaker,’ Hainsey said.”

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