NHL Labor Talks Break Down
By Stephen London
With the Sept. 15 deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement fast approaching, there should at least be some progress being made between the NHL and NHLPA if there is any hope for getting a deal done.
Talks were scheduled last week, but after last Wednesday's and Thursday's negotiations, the message remains the same: not even close.
Commissioner Gary Bettman reminisced about the last lockout Aug. 23, when he said, "We recovered last time because we have the world's greatest fans." Bettman might not be singing the same tune if the negotiations continue to lead nowhere.
Sure, the NHL had a great fan response after the last lockout, but that does not mean fans will stick around for a league that could potentially have its second lockout during an eight-year span. Not only might the fans be more reluctant to return after another lockout, but the players might play for the Russian league (the KHL).
If the NHL has to worry about prospects and players moving to the KHL now, imagine the situation it would face if there is no NHL. The KHL has already begun signing players to tentative contracts in case of a lockout.
The NHL and NHLPA are scheduled to resume talks Aug. 28, and are prepared to negotiate the entire week. With only three weeks left until the deadline, this week's talks should gauge how willing each side is to compromise.
If there is no progress during this week, it will be difficult to iron out all the issues surrounding the CBA during the next two weeks. But if there are signs of progress, chances are there will be an NHL season this year.
During a recent interview with Czech sports Web site iSport.cz, Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth made some statements about fellow Caps goaltender Braden Holtby that could have been misunderstood when translated, or taken out of context, but did not make him many friends.
Neuvirth and Holtby will be battling for the starting role at the beginning of the season. Holtby had an outstanding postseason last year, finishing with a 93.5 save percentage and a 1.95 goals-against average as a rookie. Neuvirth finished the 2011-12 campaign with a 90.3 save percentage and a 2.82 goals-against average. If Neuvirth wants to earn the starting spot, he will have to improve those numbers.
Russianmachineneverbreaks.com, a Web site dedicated to the Capitals' Russian players, has the full translation of Neuvirth's interview.
During the interview, Neuvirth was asked what he thought his chances were of starting for the Capitals this season. Neuvirth said fellow Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby was the weakest competition he had ever had.
If that statement stood alone, it would put a divide between the two young goaltenders. But iSportz did ask Neuvy to elaborate.
"He sure is a great goalie," Neuvirth said. "But I can't compare him to Voky [Tomas Vokoun] or [Semyon] Varlamov, that's what I meant. In comparison to those two, he played nothing in NHL and that's why I take him as the weakest of the three. I'm definitely not saying that he is bad, not at all. I actually like the way he plays. But he is the worst of the three, that's all.
"I'm not afraid because of how he did in the playoffs. I think that year ago I played in the playoffs the same as he did now. They always say that the second season is the turning point. I'm curious how he will do."
Since the interview came out, Neuvirth appeared in an interview on the Capitals' Web site with Mike Vogel and said he felt bad and that his statements were taken out of context.
Posted Aug. 27, 2012