When the NHL owners submitted their proposal for a collective bargaining agreement to the NHL players last month, it couldn’t be described as anything less than the opening salvo in what was sure to be a long and painful negotiating process. The owners, by proposing the extremest measures imaginable, seemed to be trying to get out in front so that any ground they had to cede would still be a net gain in the end. Consider the key points of their proposal:
- Decreasing the players’ share of revenue from 57% to 43%
- Putting a 5-year limit on any contract
- Eliminating salary arbitration
- Increasing the number of years a player must play before reaching free agency from 6 to 10
- Lowering the salary cap from $8 million above the median to $4 million
Based on last year’s numbers, the owners’ proposal would have decreased the players’ share of the revenue by $450 million, and the salary cap would have been set at $50.8 million rather than $64.3M (under the current CBA which expires on September 15, the cap would increase again to $70.2M this coming season). To put that in context, the cap floor was going to $54.2M this year.
The owners’ position is simple — though the league is growing in revenue every year and has even increased by over a billion dollars since the first season after the last lockout ($2.2B to $3.3B), several smaller market teams are still losing money and can’t afford to keep having the cap and floor increase at the current rate. And they’re not wrong. The mere fact that the league has had to take control of the Coyotes for the past few years, and reportedly has a contingency plan to take over the Devils if their financial troubles aren’t resolved soon is evidence that something has to change.
However, realizing that the issue is more one of revenue sharing rather than generation, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr pulled a brilliant move when he submitted the players’ proposal last week. Rather than countering the bullet points that the owners outlined, Fehr largely ignored them and submitted a plan that completely restructures the current system into one that would see the players forfeit some money over the next few years, but more importantly sees the wealthier franchises give a bigger share of the profits to the smaller ones. Essentially, Fehr pitted the big market owners against the small market owners, and aligned the players with the latter.
Not surprisingly, though the owners admitted there were parts of the NHLPA’s proposal that are “intriguing,” they rejected it and entered into deeper negotiations this week. That’s just standard operating procedure. Meanwhile, Fehr and the players are working on true counter proposals to the owners’ opening demands, which means that a substantial gulf remains between the two sides.
This is more about deciding how to divvy up the pieces of the pie, whereas 8 years ago it was about figuring out how to renovate the entire kitchen.
As it stands right now, it’s hard to imagine the two sides bridging the gap in time to get a new CBA in place before the season begins, and several players are already planning to join some European clubs while the negotiations work themselves out. Even if it only takes a month to work up a new CBA, teams would still have to reconvene to start training camps, and at the very least the season would be delayed by a few weeks.
But here’s the important part to remember. Unlike the previous work stoppage that saw the entire 2004-05 season canceled, the current system isn’t broken; the league is making money and growing every season. This is more about deciding how to divvy up the pieces of the pie, whereas 8 years ago it was about figuring out how to renovate the entire kitchen. So no one other than a small handful of small market owners are going to benefit from a work stoppage, and truly no one will benefit if it lasts for several months. At the very least, the league will never allow its biggest money generator — the Winter Classic — to be canceled (particularly since they plan to set attendance records in the University of Michigan’s Big House this year).
So worry not, puck nuts. Your annual fix is going to be delayed this year, but I guarantee you’ll be seeing hockey before Thanksgiving.
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Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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