Chicago merchandise shop hit by NHL lockout

October 16, 2012

Scott Kanowsky and The Associated Press

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flickr/Brian Koprowski
NHL labor negotiations have stalled the start to the Chicago Blackhawks 2012-2013 season.

Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks jerseys surround salesman Prentice Davis as he stands behind the register at Clark Street Sports across the street from United Center.

The Bulls are already playing at the West Side arena, but because of a labor dispute between National Hockey League (NHL) owners and players, the Blackhawks are not.

And Prentice says that matters, when it comes to making money from selling jerseys and other team apparel.

“Blackhawks jerseys range, the most expensive one being $150. And the most expensive Bulls jersey is $90. So do the math on that. We suffer without that season." Prentice said.

"If the Hawks don't have a game on a Tuesday, then we have no money on a Tuesday."

If NHL players and owners agree on a deal proposed Tuesday, the Blackhawks could take the ice in November. The NHL has made a new offer to the players' association that proposes a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue and a full 82-game season starting Nov. 2.

As talks resumed Tuesday in Toronto between the league and the NHLPA, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the offer, which is crafted for — if nothing else — a quick response from the head of the players' association, Donald Fehr.

"It was done," Bettman said, "in the spirit of getting a deal done."

Fehr told reporters that the proposal is for six years. Bettman did not confirm that number.

"Our hope," he said, "after we review this is that there will be a feeling on the players' side that this will be a proposal from which we can negotiate and try and reach a conclusion."

When asked if the new proposal was an improvement over previous offers made by the NHL, Fehr said: "In some respects I think it is. In other respects I'm not sure. We have to look at it."

The NHL locked out its players on Sept. 15, and the regular season was scheduled to begin on Oct. 11. A Nov. 2 start date would extend the season well into June, but would preserve some of the marquee events, such as the Jan. 1 Winter Classic in Michigan.

"I don't want to get into the substance other than to say we believe that this was a fair offer for a long-term deal, and it's one that we hope gets a positive reaction," Bettman said. "We have about nine or ten days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward."

Bettman said the long-term deal takes steps to guarantee the players will get full value from their existing deals. And in order to pull off the logistics of the schedule, each team would have one additional game every five weeks in order to get a full season in.

"Gary indicated to me and I assume he indicated to you that they would like to get a full 82-game season in," Fehr said. "We, of course, share that view and would like to get a full 82-game season in. But, we are not in a position to make any comments about it beyond that at this point."

All teams would also hold a makeshift training camp, lasting approximately one week. Veteran players who signed contracts overseas would need to scramble back to their team headquarters, as will the younger players who are working in the minor leagues, like the AHL, this month.

It is clearly the best offer — or counteroffer, for that matter — that has been made in the months of negotiations since last season ended. And the proposal is now in the hands of Fehr and his team of executives.

"We're going to be on-call to them. They have some work to do internally. Obviously, we didn't put this proposal, this offer, together overnight, and they're going to need a little time to review it," Bettman said. "I'm hoping that review will get us to a positive and constructive place."

The union has requested time to look the proposal over.

"We're focused on getting the puck dropped on Nov. 2 and playing a full 82-game regular season and full playoffs," Bettman said. "That's what this offer is all about."

This is the third lockout under Bettman's watch, but unlike the previous two, dialogue has remained steady. The two sides last met last week in New York.

"We've given it," Bettman said, "our best shot."