CBA update: Olive branches, calm before the storm

On Wednesday evening, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr stood before reporters in Toronto, to give a briefing on what occurred in morning meetings between he, Commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commish Bill Daly and others.

Essentially, nothing happened.

Well, not exactly nothing. Because an afternoon session was cancelled but here’s Fehr to tell you exactly how much of nothing happened, along with how the next potential batch of nothing might happen:

Agent Allan Walsh, who, for obvious reasons is very much keyed into the proceedings, revealed earlier in the day a key proponent of the players’ proposal, one which had a damned good reason not to be released until today:

“Per NHLPA proposal, Industry Growth Fund gives Bettman control of $100M annually to dish out to low rev teams as he sees fit…key part of NHLPA’s proposed Industry Growth Fund, players+big market teams partnering to provide assistance to small markets that need it.”

At first glance, it seems very altruistic, the players giving up a large chunk of their own money to keep unhealthy franchises viable so their brethren can continue to play NHL-caliber hockey.

It may suggest how far the PA is willing to go to close the “philosophical gap” cited by Gary Bettman at times in the last month, and how close the two sides may be in reality, behind all the posturing. It certainly sounds way less capitalistic and more inclusionary, perhaps socialistic, in nature, trying to make sure every team has a fair shot.

But is it?

Why would the NHLPA so willingly give up a tremendous bargaining chip and the resulting leverage, for something which isn’t close to a guarantee? It’s not like Bettman and the owners have a moral obligation to use that money specifically for that purpose, even if that is written into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It could end up like an owners’ slush fund — and the owners, whether they are behemoths like Ed Snider, James Dolan and Stan Kroenke or the little guys like Tom Cigarran — would collectively have no reason to lift a finger and actually try to change their business model with a fresh infusion of cash in the triple-digit million range.

Whatever magic happens behind the curtains, there is one more session scheduled for Thursday at 9:30 AM on union ground before the scene switches to New York City and the league’s turf.

There are 24 days left before the current CBA expires.