Day 31: Hockey fans across North America are in desperation. Optimism is low. Hope is fading. Diehards have resorted to watching KHL and Deutsche Eishockey Liga games on sketchy foreign websites. Darkness is closing in…
But wait… What is that? A glimmer of hope? It couldn’t be… It is! A new proposal!
Okay, that introduction was a tad dramatic, but I think justifiably so. Life has been difficult for hockey fans these past four weeks. I remember letting out a defeated sigh when I looked at my calendar on October 11th and realized that the Flyers would not be battling the Bruins on opening night.
Which is why the NHL’s “surprise offer”, as ESPN put it, to the Players’ Association today sent a lightning bolt of optimism through hockey fans everywhere. The new proposal, which differs greatly from the NHL’s previous offers (as I’ll [try to] explain later), is highlighted by a 50-50 split in hockey related revenue (HRR) and a full 82-game schedule that would start on November 2nd.
Now, before I delve into the details of this proposal, let me first say that while I am not an economics major, I am a broadcast journalism major, so hopefully my writing will make up for my less than stellar understanding of business and finances.
As I mentioned above, the NHL stepped back on many of the stances they took in earlier proposals. First, the 50-50 split in HRR is a big change for all of the NHL’s earlier offers. In their last offer on September 13th, the league called for the players to make 49% in year one, followed by 48% in year two and 47% for the remainder of the deal. Donald Fehr, the director of the NHLPA, and the players have to like this new position on HRR; it’s certainly a drop from the 57% they were making in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s much better than the 43% that the NHL originally proposed. A 50-50 split in revenue between owners and players is also a common mark for other professional leagues in North America.
Second, revenue sharing (basically financial aid for teams small-market teams that aren’t raking in as much as the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, and Montreal Canadiens) would be around $200 million in this offer, a number closer to that which the NHLPA desired. Revenue sharing was a major point of the Players’ Association when negotiations began last month. The NHL was previously unreceptive to the association’s pleas and demands requests, but they seem to have somewhat given in on this topic, increasing the proposed revenue sharing by $50 million from last season. Also, according to Yahoo! Sports (which has more information on specific numbers), this bump would expand the revenue sharing to teams like the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks. Basically, teams that aren’t classified as having a “small-market”, but still need a little assistance, would receive help.
The NHL’s proposal also changed the length of entry-level contracts to two years (as opposed to three years in the previous CBA), revived the possibility of salary arbitration (they had called for its removal in previous offers), and called for unrestricted free agents to be at least 28 years old or to have eight years of service in the NHL.
However, don’t bust out your credit card and order that NHL Center Ice package just yet. Although this proposal is starkly different from the NHL’s previous ones, I don’t think that the supposedly rock-solid Players’ Association is going to take this deal straight up. The NHL’s request for a limit of five years on player contract lengths is still on the table, something that the owners and players have debated over since the beginning of the negotiations (and a huge source of hypocrisy; owners throughout the NHL scrambled to sign players to long term deals [Evander Kane; 6 years, John Carlson; 6 years, etc.] before the lockout began, but that’s beside the point).
It should also be noted that, although the league has increased the proposed revenue for players from their previous offers, it’s still a significant drop from what they were earning in 2011-’12, as insider Darren Dreger explains:
Need to see provision for year 1 salary protection. Initial player response: 1% increase. Still a 12-13% reduction in yr 1 (7/57= 12.2%).
My take on the situation? There are parts of the deal that I think the NHLPA will like, and there are parts they won’t like, but the bottom line is that this is the first real start of negotiating between the two sides. Progress on reaching a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (which is fairly ironically named) has been minimal because the two sides have been so far apart. But because the NHL conceded numerous points in this new proposal, they have given the NHLPA something to work with, which will allow actual negotiations to commence. As TSN reporter Bob McKenzie put it:
My take: Too early to say how NHLPA will react to NHL offer but I suspect we’re in for 7 to 10 days of really intense bargaining sessions.
There is a lot of work to be done, but I think that the process will go much more efficiently and time consciously now that the NHL has proposed a set date for the season to begin. The NHLPA has until October 26th to accept this offer straight up if they want to drop the puck on November 2nd, which most likely will not happen. According to ESPN, the NHLPA and the NHL will have a conference call tomorrow to discuss the new proposal.
Things are looking up my fellow diehards. Hang in there; hockey is almost back. I can smell the beer and hot dogs now…
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