The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the National Hockey League and its Players’ Association expires on September 15 of this year, resulting in a player lockout if an agreement is not reached by that time. Negotiations are currently underway as both parties struggle to reach a compromise before the fast approaching deadline.
Representatives of the NHL presented their first proposal to the NHLPA in July, with some calling their attempt a slap in the face. The NHL’s initial proposal primarily called for a decrease in the players’ share of hockey-related revenue (HRR), from 57% to 46%. The proposal also called for a lowering of the salary cap, an extension of entry level contracts, from three to five years, as well as removing players’ ability to seek arbitration in regards to salary disputes.
This original proposal was quickly dismissed by the Players’ Association, and a new proposal was submitted by the NHL when the two groups met in New York on Tuesday, August 28. The newest proposal called for adjustments to be made throughout the league over a six-year period. For the 2012-13 season, players would receive 51.6% of HRR. The players’ take would drop to 50.5% and 49.6% the next two seasons, with an even 50/50 split for the remaining length of the contract.
The term “hockey-related revenue” is currently being redefined, leading some to believe that these percentages may be misleading. Certain sources of team income are excluded, including money gained from operating other hockey clubs like the AHL affiliates. “Direct costs” are subtracted from HRR before player percentages are determined, and with the NHL’s proposal more items would be added to this direct cost list that further reduces player compensation. In contrast to this, the NHLPA has proposed an expansion of the HRR definition, something that could aid smaller, financially struggling clubs.
Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner, suggested earlier that the issue of revenue sharing would not “make or break” the negotiations, but the opposite seems to be true. According to Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated, “players are willing to take less money, but for their sacrifice they want a new system in place, a more effective revenue sharing model among the teams.”
The NHLPA held a session on Wednesday, August 29, to discuss the revised proposal. After the meeting, Don Fehr, Executive Director of the NHLPA, told reporters that they “want to work on a proposal and respond to the NHL one.” He added that the two opposing groups have “quite different” ideas on the issue of revenue sharing, a topic that is sure to remain a major factor in ongoing negotiations. According to Fehr, the NHLPA will present their counteroffer today, Thursday, August 30, “if luck holds.”
Commissioner Bettman told reporters that the NHL wants to make a deal on a “timely basis,” but only time will tell how the group responds to the NHLPA’s counteroffer. If the two groups cannot reach a consensus by September 15, then players will be locked out for the third time in Bettman’s reign as NHL commissioner.