Canadiens forward Erik Cole, the team’s NHLPA rep, spoke at length about Thursday’s breakdown in CBA talks.
François Lacasse, NHLI via Getty Images
Erik Cole, the Canadiens’ NHLPA rep, spoke to The Gazette and Hockey Inside/Out’s Dave Stubbs Thursday night following the NHL’s rejection of three NHLPA offers made earlier in the day. Below is a transcript of Cole’s comments:
From my perspective, I think this (rejection) is probably part of their script. I don’t think the league is going to make any decision or move or proposal that hasn’t been well thought out and well planned out. I think that’s probably a lot of the reason why I wasn’t showing too much optimism about their last proposal (made earlier this week).
I didn’t think it was a very good proposal, anyway. I mean, it was nice to see them want to come up from their percentage in terms of the players’ share, but at the same time they still want to make adjustments to HRR (hockey-related revenue), which they haven’t allowed any discussion on yet, so that’s an issue.
And the same for the revenue-sharing. The things we see as major talking points, they’re not really willing to give clarification on those aspects just yet. So I don’t think it’s really… especially with the article that came out on Deadspin this past week about the NHL having hired a PR firm, I think today just shows what I thought all along: (this week’s publicly released NHL proposal) was more a PR play to try to put some pressure on the guys and spin what’s really going on.
I think, as players, it gets everyone’s hopes up and kind of excited that we might get back to work in a more timely manner. But it’s just not the case. This is something that I’m certain has been… it’s not like the league came out in August and decided that they were going to lock us out if a new CBA was in place. I’m sure that it’s been well thought out and planned out. It’s another stepping-stone in the process is I guess the best way to say it.
I’ve never really thought that losing the season was out of the question. When you have that mindset, it doesn’t really faze you. I’ve been a player where we’ve lost a season before. It wouldn’t be out of the question, I think it would be a mistake for certain, but it’s always been my assumption that it’s going to be a shortened year.
And I think when you factor in all the components and wording that went into the league’s proposal that they made public, I just think it was, you know, a lot more for putting pressure on guys, getting them excited or a little antsy about getting back to work, to sway public opinion and less about wanting to sit down and negotiate. I feel like the three options that we gave them today, each one of them somewhere in there, there could be a solution that they could be sitting down, talking about now.
But they take 15 minutes in their little caucus and come back in the room and say that all three of our proposals have been rejected on all accounts … then Gary (Bettman) walks out and talks about how far apart we are.
I guess I don’t see it being too far apart when we’re willing to come down and have a 50/50 share of HRR. We just want that the contracts that they’ve already committed to us and they’ve signed and that they continued to sign throughout this summer to be honoured.
On who makes the next move: It falls into the same category from our perspective as it has from the get-go: it’s not about whose turn it is, who needs to make the next offer. If you feel like you have something that’s productive to gaining a solution to the problem and putting an end to this, then by all means you pick up the phone and make a call.
I don’t see us wanting to just turn off our phones and not have any conversations. There’s still lots of things that need to be talked about. Like I’ve commented on already, there was lots of skepticism in terms of how (the NHL) vaguely have said they want to clarify HRR. Well, what exactly does that mean? One can only assume they want to reduce it, but to what extent we have no idea as of now. I think it just goes to show it’s early in the process and I don’t think you can really look at it any other way.
On today’s (post-meeting) conference call, every team was represented, 55 guys were on the first call with another 18 or 19 guys in Toronto attending the meetings.
That’s something that the league has continually said it doesn’t want, the big group of guys going there to witness it, to see the reactions and have a sense or a feel of the mood or anything like that because they can come right back to us. Each one of those guys gets on the call and explains their take on the mood of the meeting, the demeanour of every individual. I think that’s very helpful for us as players: to hear it first-hand from guys you’ve played with or know, or played against, are in the room.
It’s a big difference, for sure. For us, we have that advantage, we’re allowed in the room. If any player wants to go, the PA welcomes you: ‘C’mon, let’s go. There’s another meeting going on, come on down.’ Whereas with the owners it’s just that little select group that gets to attend. It’s kind of a nice perk that we have in comparison to the other side.
On resolve of locked-out players this week: Like any fan, everyone (among players) was excited initially when they heard there was a proposal put out by the league and that they want to play games. But after you hear that and then you hear what the proposal consisted of, the way it was worded and laid out to the media, it really kind of became clear that there wasn’t a real need to get our hopes up too much.
I thought it was probably going to be something more for the media and fans to sway public opinion and put some pressure back on us. That’s one big difference – how many times do you see an owner at a hockey rink at his kids’ practice, or in the schoolyard picking up his kids? We’re much more accessible than the owners are.
For me, I feel that’s a good thing. If any parent has a question, I’m more than happy to explain things to them and answer their questions. There’s a lot of little things that come from the last CBA that are very easily overlooked. There’s just three or four bullet points being broadcast over the radio.
How the owners with their last proposal said, ‘Hey, 50/50, no rollback…’ It’s funny, I kind of giggle to hear talk like that because no one really understands the underbelly of it with the escrow. Of course they’re not talking about a rollback. We don’t need to. That’s what the escrow is.