SBD/October 17, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 32: League Offers NHLPA New Proposal With 50-50 Revenue Split

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The NHL "injected life into a stagnant labor negotiation Tuesday, making a surprise offer to the NHL Players' Association that was highlighted by a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue and a full 82-game season starting Nov. 2," according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. The NHLPA "held a conference call Tuesday evening to discuss the offer with the players' negotiating committee and the union's executive board." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "didn't say exactly when the union would invite the NHL back to [the] bargaining table with a reaction to the offer." But he said it would be "sooner rather than later." A source said that the "tentative plan is for both sides to speak by phone Wednesday, with the NHLPA seeking clarification on number of points, and then for the two sides to meet again Thursday." Sources said that the deal "also calls for a 2012-13 salary cap of $59.9 million, but teams can go over that cap all the way up to $70.2 million in Year 1 as part of transition" to the new CBA. The sources added that by Year 2, teams "must comply with the cap" (ESPN.com, 10/16). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes the "surprise offer" was the "first significant movement in negotiations since the league's owners locked out the players Sept. 15." A main point in the NHL's latest proposal is "the provision to protect the value of current contracts," meaning that owners "will have to honor the big contracts they gave players in the two-month buying spree that preceded the lockout." The proposal also "increased revenue sharing among clubs from less than $150 million to $200 million, but short of the union’s proposed $240 million." In addition, the NHL’s offer "raises the requirements for unrestricted free agency to 28 years old or 8 years’ service, from 27 years old or 7 years’ service" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/17).

HIGHLIGHTING THE MAIN POINTS: The league earlier today posted on its website, "NHL's Proposal To NHLPA To Save The 82-Game 2012/13 Season" (NHL.com, 10/17). In Toronto, Lance Hornby highlights the league's offer under the header, "Breaking Down The NHL's Latest Proposal" (TORONTO SUN, 10/17). On Long Island, Steve Zipay notes a revised 82-game season "would mean each team would have to play an extra game every five or six weeks, and some games would be added to the end of the schedule in April." If a deal is "reached by Oct. 25, training camps would open Oct. 26." All of the "details of the proposal were not revealed Tuesday, but the main elements" include:

  • The league and players would split hockey-related revenues 50-50 in each year of the deal.
  • Free-agency eligibility would rise to 28 years old, or after eight seasons, from age 27 and seven years. The first NHL offer was age 30 and 10 years.
  • Five-year limits on new, non-entry level contracts. There had been no limit.
  • Three-year entry-level contracts would be cut to two years and salary arbitration would remain in place. The NHL had proposed five-year entry-level contracts and abolishing arbitration.
  • An increase in revenue-sharing for financially struggling teams to $200 million a year, up from about $170 million.
  • A salary cap for 2012-13 of $70.2 million, but with a twist: Players on one-way contracts sent to the AHL would count against the cap (NEWSDAY, 10/17).

PRESERVING A FULL SEASON: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday said, "We made a proposal, an offer, really that is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs, and this offer that we made obviously was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season." He added, "It's one that we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on November 2nd -- which backing up, entails at least a one-week training camp. So 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" (THE DAILY). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes Bettman "did not say what motivated the owners to make the offer other than the wish to save an 82-game season" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In Winnipeg, Tim Campbell cites a source as saying that the NHL "is hopeful the full season of 82 games is a carrot for players." The source said, "But there's not a lot of wiggle room here" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/17). Fehr said, "I've been looking for a way to get these negotiations jump-started, and if this does it, that would be great. We'll see though" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/17). Sources said that all clubs "were asked to submit additional dates of arena availability to help put together a condensed or revised schedule." One source added that as the league "scrambles to put together a full schedule ... the All-Star Game could even be in jeopardy" (ESPN.com, 10/16). The Air Canada Centre "did not fill in any dates created by the lockout with concerts or the like and is waiting for its major tenant to return." A building official said, "We can be ready very quickly" (TORONTO SUN, 10/17). 

STICKING POINTS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell cites a source as saying that the "definition of HRR would remain the same as it is in the current agreement." Campbell noted that is "a significant shift for the NHL, one that has the potential to change the tone of the negotiations from dismal to, the very least, hopeful." The proposal "does have some significant spending curbs included." There is "still much negotiating to be done." Campbell: "For example, what to do with escrow?" The NHLPA "remains vehemently opposed to any sort of rollback -- by their definition meaning less money in their pockets" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Shoalts notes one "possible stumbling block is the owners' demand to eliminate the ability of teams to hide bad contracts in the American Hockey League." The owners "want the salaries of players in the AHL who are on NHL contracts to be included in the salary cap if they are above a certain amount" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon notes the offer is "not really that far off the first-year offer of the NHL's last proposal in terms of the revenue split, which was 49 per cent." If there is one point on which the players "will not retreat, it's keeping 100 per cent of the value of their current contracts" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In N.Y., Pat Leonard notes the "most glaring remaining sticking point is that the NHL still wants to limit the length of player contracts" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/17). In L.A., Helene Elliott notes the union "is expected push back on the proposed five-year maximum for new contracts and the delaying of free agency" (L.A. TIMES, 10/17).
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