SBD/July 16, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Reportedly Makes First Offer To Union In CBA Negotiations, Asks For Big Concessions

Fehr made it clear that salary rollbacks "aren't going to happen under his watch"
The NHL BOG met in Toronto Friday and sources said that the league is "not only demanding the players accept a cut in their percentage of the gross from the current 57 percent to 46 percent, but also recalculating the definition of Hockey Related Revenue so the pot from which the owners and players share would be drastically reduced," according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. In addition, the NHL proposal "would reduce the team ceiling (the cap number) from the current $8 million over the midpoint to $4 million over the midpoint while maintaining the club floor at $8 million below the midpoint." Reports indicated that the NHL -- "which declared a record $3.2 billion in revenue for 2011-12 -- is calling for a five-year term limit on all contracts, in which signing bonuses would be forbidden and salaries would be the same for every year of the contract." The proposal "calls for unrestricted free agency to be granted only after a player has accrued 10 seasons in the NHL, without regard to age." The proposal also would "eliminate salary arbitration and extend Entry Level contracts from three years to five years." Neither the NHL nor NHLPA "has publicly acknowledged the proposal" (N.Y. POST, 7/14). NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr made it "rather clear" Friday that salary rollbacks "aren't going to happen under his watch." Fehr said, "I think basically what most people representing employees would think about salary rollbacks. What I’m sure you would think about salary rollbacks if they came to you. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what that is" (TORONTO SUN, 7/14).

MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE
: In Columbus, Aaron Portzline wrote the NHL "isn't going to get all of these items on their wish list," and some of the league's requests are "extreme."  But if the league is able to "'redefine' hockey-related revenue and give the players a smaller percentage of the now-smaller pie, the salary cap is going down. Way down" (BLUEJACKETSXTRA.com, 7/15). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote under the header, "No Surprises In NHL's First Offer." Once the players are "done laughing over their morning coffees while poring over the brief document that represented the league's proposal on a new deal, the two sides will sit down for more talks later this week at the league's offices in New York and maybe get down to the actual business of hammering out an agreement." The NHL "might as well have slid this proposal into Santa's sack as it represents an owners' wish list of ways the players can help save the league's teams from spending themselves into financial crises." There is "precious little to compel the league to start anywhere but where it did by asking for the moon." Burnside: "But any suggestion that the players are either offended or surprised by such a proposal is specious" (ESPN.com, 7/14). In Montreal, Jack Todd writes under the header, "NHL's Gary Bettman's Proposal To Donald Fehr Amounts To War Against NHLPA." Todd writes if people thought NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "might be at least somewhat conciliatory in order to save the season, you thought wrong." Todd: "Whatever you do, don’t buy the spin Bettman will try to put on another lockout. This column will be 100 per cent behind Fehr and the players, every step of the way" (Montreal GAZETTE, 7/16).

NO SYMPATHY HERE: The N.Y. POST's Brooks wrote, "The NHL wants to roll the clock back to the 1960s, when its athletes were powerless and utterly without leverage." A proposed "five-year Entry Level system followed by five years without the right to salary arbitration before free agency after 10 accrued NHL seasons would leave every player in the league at the mercy of his team for a decade in a hard cap league." Those who "wish to interpret this as merely a first proposal from which negotiations can now proceed are kidding themselves." Brooks: "Negotiate off what? ... This is not an initial good-faith proposal. This is a shot across the bow of the union and at the players by a war machine that went scorched-earth last time and can pledge to do it again any day commissioner Gary Bettman feels like it." This is an "immediate attempt to measure the willingness of the players to fight, to gauge their unity, to divide and conquer just the way the league succeeded the last time in busting a union undermined by enemies within" (N.Y. POST, 7/15). SI.com's Adrian Dater wrote if the NHL "imposes another lockout on the players in September -- as many observers predict -- over the basic issue of revenue splits, then the league will be unmercifully hammered in the arena of public relations." The owners got "a lot of public sympathy the last time around, but they will rightfully receive none now." They convinced a lot of people that teams "were losing their shirts in 2004, the players were greedy and the league couldn't survive without drastic concessions." Dater wrote, "Owners got what they wanted in the CBA of 2005, but somehow here we are again, creeping up on the Sept. 15 expiration date with some of the same whispers of 'We need help!' coming from their side again. ... This inherent form of hypocrisy, on the public record, is what confronts the league and its owners as Sept. 15 nears. And it is what will potentially make Donald Fehr -- the former bogeyman of Major League Baseball -- an unlikely figure of public sympathy" (SI.com, 7/13). 
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