Players would vote to reject NHL’s latest offer: Alfredsson

Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson insists NHL players are still standing firmly behind players’ association boss Donald Fehr.

Players would vote to reject NHL’s latest offer: Alfredsson
Daniel Alfredsson (Wayne Cuddington)

Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson insists NHL players are still standing firmly behind players’ association boss Donald Fehr.

Alfredsson believes that if a union-wide vote was held on whether to accept the NHL proposal that could have ended the lockout on Wednesday or Thursday, it would be soundly defeated.

Following the off-Broadway drama which took place Thursday night between Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, tensions were high. There have since been rumblings of dissent in the union ranks.

“Of course (a vote) could happen,” Alfredsson said following Friday’s practice with the Carleton University Ravens. “I hope it doesn’t happen, because I don’t think most players feel there is a deal to get done right now for us.”

The process would work something like this: If there was deemed to be enough of an appetitive for a vote, the players’ executive board would hold a conference call with the player representatives from each team, who would, in turn, canvas the skaters on their individual teams about the possibility.

Yet, according to Alfredsson, “from where we are now, I can’t see us being close to that point. We feel very strongly about some of the issues.”

That opinion was shared by Chris Kelly, the former Senator who now plays for the Boston Bruins.

“At the end of the day, we want to get a fair deal and I’m sure if you asked every player, the majority of players in the union support the union 100 per cent,” said Kelly.

“The process we’ve been doing, guys have stuck with it. Obviously we hired Donald Fehr for a reason: To get the best possible deal. Especially at a time like this, you’ve got to put faith in a guy like that because that’s his job and ultimately why we hired him.”

Kelly, however, conceded a measure of disappointment, given that expectations of a possible deal had risen so high earlier in the week.

“It has been a roller coaster of emotions,” he said. “You think you’re close to getting a deal done and things kind of fall apart, but that’s the way the negotiations have gone on. Hopefully we can get a deal done. Everyone’s trying to stay positive, even though right now it’s pretty tough to do so.”

If there’s any consolation from the fireworks Thursday and the silence in talks Friday, it’s that the sides have been there and done that before.

Alfredsson, who hasn’t allowed himself to be carried away with the highs and lows of negotiations, says it’s now clear that the optimism of earlier in the week was overstated — by both sides.

“I don’t know if we are that close,” he said. “The first few days of this week was encouraging for everybody and I think maybe we read too much into that. Both sides were pretty quiet about what was going on and when you saw what happened (Thursday), you can tell we’re not that close. We’re in a wait and see mode. Until they start up negotiations again, the frustration continues.”

The Senators’ captain believes it is possible that the NHL could take back its latest offer, as Bettman claimed the league would do. “I’m sure they mean it,” he said. “Otherwise, why say it? That’s also part of negotiations.”
By the same token, Alfredsson says, the players’ association could also take a step back from the concessions it made in its latest proposal.

One of the pivotal sticking points is the term limits on player contracts.

The NHL wants a five-year limit on all contracts, with only a five per cent variance in each year of the deal; aiming to avoid the lengthy, “back diving contracts,” where players’ salaries decline dramatically in the latter years. NHL vice president Bill Daly said Thursday that it’s “the hill we will die on.”

Alfredsson, however, says the union is also steadfast in its stance.

“As a player, I don’t see us agreeing to that.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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