Briere on labor issues: Not much optimism

Representatives for NHL players and owners have not had formal negotiations since Aug. 31, leaving a sense of doom around the league that a lockout is inevitable.

Owners say they will lock out the players if a new collective-bargaining agreement isn’t in place by late Saturday night.

"There’s not much to be optimistic about; they’re not even talking," Flyers center Danny Briere said after working out at the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Tuesday morning and then taking part in the team’s charity golf tournament in Pine Hill. "It’s definitely disappointing, and I’m sure both sides have their reasons. And right now there’s really nothing to negotiate about, from both sides’ perspective."

At least both sides have apparently agreed to meet Wenesday, prior to a players' meeting in New York City.

More than 200 NHL players are expected to attend the union meeting late Wednesday afternoon. Several Flyers will be there, including Braydon Coburn, the Flyers’ union representative, Briere and Scott Hartnell.

Hartnell is a member of the NHL players’ negotiating committee.

"It’ll be good to see 200 or 300 guys - probably more than half the league will be there - and see where we’re at and go from there," Hartnell said.

Revenue sharing among teams, how to divide hockey-related revenue (HRR), and players’ contract lengths are among the issues.

"Even though the deadline is Sept. 15, there will be a lot of work done this week and next week, and hopefully there’s not a work stoppage (for) too long," Hartnell said. "We want to play, and I’m sure the owners want to see us on the ice, filling the stadiums. That’s the bottom line."

Training camps are scheduled to open on Sept. 21, with the season slated to begin on Oct. 11.

"You’ve got to find some common ground, and that’s the thing that’s missing right now," Hartnell said. "….Owners have locked up a lot of the star players for long terms, and to right off the bat say they’re not going to pay 100 percent of the contracts is not right. No one would agree with that."

 Rollbacks in salaries are "not in the cards for us," he added.

Hartnell said the NHL is trying to get salary rollbacks by having more of the players’ salaries go into escrow.

Ed Snider, the Flyers’ chairman and one of the league’s most influential owners, declined a chance to comment.

If there is a lockout, several Flyers who do not need to clear waivers are expected to play for the AHL Phantoms, including Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Eric Wellwood and Zac Rinaldo.

Briere, who played in Switzerland during the 2004-05 lockout and is undecided about whether he will go overseas if another one occurs, said he is concerned that the fans will become apathetic toward hockey if the sport closes down again.

"It happened seven years ago, and they kind of gave us a break. We were lucky," Briere said. "They all came back and they came back stronger, but at some point, you can’t take them for granted."

Briere said the owners are "trying to change" the definition of hockey-related revenue.

"It was such a mess in ’04-’05, trying to define what hockey-related revenues were, and now they’re trying to change it again," he said. "It’s like, ‘At least leave it alone. We figured it out once, let’s not go back and open up that mess again.’ "

In the last CBA, players received 57 percent of the HRR; this time, owners originally proposed cutting that to 43 percent, and their latest proposal offered the players 46 percent.

"But by changing the (definition of) hockey-related revenues, the percentage becomes back to where it was," said Briere, adding that, in essence, the players’ share is at 43 percent because of changes in the HRR.

Would a 50/50 share of the HRR get a deal done?

"That’s hard to say, but it would definitely be somewhere where we could negotiate and talk about," Briere said.

In addition to dividing hockey-related revenue, the labor dispute also involves an apparent battle between the profitable big-market teams and the struggling small-market franchises. The players want the small-market teams to make bigger gains through revenue sharing.

So far, those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.