Flyers center Danny Briere, his frustration growing, made highly critical remarks Tuesday about how Gary Bettman is handling the NHL’s negotiations with the players’ union.
Multiple reports on Monday said Bettman, the NHL commissioner, suggested the league would cancel the Jan. 1 Winter Classic in mid-November if a new collective-bargaining agreement wasn’t in place by then.
“Mid-November is what, a month and a half away?” Briere bristled after taking part in an informal Flyers practice in Voorhees on Tuesday. “Maybe if he spent less time worrying about who has the upper hand and maybe more time negotiating with the players, maybe more things would get done.”
The 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto will be held at Michigan Stadium. Saving that money-making game - and all the goodwill and public relations it creates for the league - would seem to be a bargaining chip in the players’ favor.
The players view Bettman’s threat to cancel the Winter Classic early as a scare tactic because he doesn’t want them to use the game as leverage in negotiations for a new CBA.
“When we see these outside distractions, it’s like, ‘OK, let’s kind of talk (about issues),' ” said veteran winger Jody Shelley, one of a handful of Flyers who was on the ice at the Skate Zone. The threat to cancel the Winter Classic “is not the talk that we need to have right now.”
Both sides are locked in a stalemate on how to divide hockey-related revenue (HRR) and how much revenue sharing is needed to aid struggling franchises.
Representatives of the players and owners will meet Friday and have their first formal negotiating session since Sept. 12 _ three days before the CBA expired and the lockout began.
Friday's meeting in New York City is expected to center around non-core economic issues, such as length of contracts (the owners want a five-year maximum) and the NHL's desire to increase entry-level contracts from three to five years.
“We want to play; we want to get back on the ice,” Briere said. “Being in limbo is not fun, and I’m sure it’s the same thing on their side.”
Briere said more owners need to get involved, and he questioned why Bettman and Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, were the only people allowed to give the league’s point of view.
“Until there are more owners involved, I don’t think it will get anywhere,” he said.
The owners and front-office personnel have been given a gag order, which, if broken, could result in a fine of up to $1 million.
“It’s weird seeing owners not get involved or allowed to talk or say anything,” Briere said. “They’re very savvy businessmen to be where they are, and they’re not allowed to say a word.”
Breakaways. The Phantoms, directed by coach Terry Murray, will have their first on-ice workouts Saturday at 9:15 a.m. as their training camp opens in Voorhees and runs to Oct. 7. The sessions are free and open to the public, and several Flyers who have two-way contracts will be on the ice, including Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Eric Wellwood, Erik Gustafsson and Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo said he wants to concentrate on scoring, not brawling…Schenn played for Murray when he coached the Los Angeles Kings…..The Phantoms will scrimmage Albany, the New Jersey Devils’ affiliate, at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Voorhees….For the first time since they began their informal workouts last week, the Flyers wore jerseys that said “NHLPA” on the front.....Briere is still undecided about whether he will play in Switzerland, or someplace else, during the lockout.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.