SBD/January 9, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL CBA Voting Begins; Do Players Need Spike In League Growth To Benefit From Deal?

NHL training camps will open on Sunday pending the ratification process
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly yesterday said that training camps are "expected to open Sunday after the ratification process for the new collective bargaining agreement is completed," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. The league and NHLPA yesterday continued to "hammer out a memorandum of understanding that will ultimately be voted on by their constituents." The owners "will cast ballots in person" at today's BOG meeting in N.Y., while the players "are expected to vote electronically" tomorrow and Friday. This year's NHL schedule "isn’t expected to be released until after" the BOG ratifies the agreement (CP, 1/8). The AP's Ira Podell noted the NHL and NHLPA last night were "still working on one more key piece of business." Daly in an e-mail wrote, ''We are trying to finalize a summary document, and we are very close on that. That will be turned into a (memorandum of understanding) with more detailed language that won't be signed until this coming weekend.'' Podell noted the NHLPA was "waiting for that initial document before it scheduled a vote for its more than 700 members." A majority of players must approve the deal "before the lockout can end" (AP, 1/8).

DELVING DEEPER INTO THE DEAL: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes NHL players under the new CBA will "continue to do very well" if the game grows, but "too many, it seems, are just assuming that the steady growth that was evident over the past seven years will simply continue at the same pace." Canadian TV contracts next year "will help," but it is "no slam dunk league revenues will simply continue growing." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr negotiated the players "into a massive giveback that will amount to $3 billion [all figures U.S.] or more over the course of this agreement." Credit Fehr with "a win here based on some pension improvements, increased minimum salaries and the fact the players didn't collapse in these negotiations." However, those victories are "nothing close to $3 billion, or even the $822 million lost in player salaries." By the time the players begin to "truly understand this deal ... the beauty of it for Fehr is that he'll be long gone." The only way Fehr "ends up looking like a genius here is if there's either a new loophole in this CBA, or one or two old ones left over from the last CBA" (THESTAR.com, 1/9). Also in Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes "several new details of the agreement surfaced" yesterday, including "how teams split the salaries of players involved in a trade." Teams are now required to "take no more than 50 per cent (each) of a player’s salary -- both in regular dollars and cap hit -- after a trade." There was "no sharing of salaries" under the previous deal. Also in the new deal, any contract "running beyond six years that is traded will now see both teams involved in the trade absorb a percentage of the cap hit should the player retire before the end of his contract" (TORONTO STAR, 1/9). 

OLYMPIC PROPORTIONS: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted the two sides agreed to "leave the Olympics out of the CBA," and plan to negotiate "a separate agreement outside of the CBA relating to the Olympics." That agreement would come about if the NHL and NHLPA "can agree to terms" with the IIHF and IOC. Sources said that the four parties "plan to meet over the next month or so to begin discussions." LeBrun: "If I had to venture a guess, I would say NHL players will again be Olympic-bound." But it is "not a slam dunk" (ESPN.com, 1/8). IIHF President Rene Fasel said, "Once the CBA is ratified and there has been some cooling-down period, we will sit together with the IOC, the NHL and NHLPA to find solutions how to make sure that Sochi 2014 becomes the fifth consecutive best-on-best Olympic event." The CP's Johnston noted the NHL is expected to "continue making a big international push over the course of its new CBA, as evidenced by an article devoted to that topic in the document." Not only does it "include a clause saying every team in the league has to make at least one international trip before the deal expires in 2022, but there is also a section covering 'new international business ventures.'" Sources said that the changes the NHL is "expected to seek range from smaller issues such as access to tickets, hotels and better hospitality for team owners to larger things like sponsor recognition and a loosening of the IOC's notoriously strict guidelines on images, video and media." This is where it could "get tricky for Fasel," who is "rumoured to be interested in running" for IOC President (CP, 1/8).

COLD WAR: KHL President Alexander Medvedev suggested that the league "might challenge whether contracts signed in the NHL under the expired collective bargaining agreement are still legally binding because of changes in the new CBA." Daly said that the NHL's stance is that "a contract signed under the expired CBA remains legally binding under the new one, regardless of the changes." Daly in an e-mail wrote, "It clearly is. It's a product of the CBA." He added that the league has "no response at this time on what it would do if the KHL tries to challenge existing NHL contracts." Daly said the KHL "confirmed" with him yesterday that it intends to honor that transfer agreement. But in New Jersey, Tom Gulitti writes Medvedev's statements seem to suggest the KHL "might try to find a way around the transfer agreement" (Bergen RECORD, 1/9). Medvedev was quoted as saying, "A number of players have either decided to stay or are looking into it. ... Our league will act according to our own and international rules. If players decide to stay, we will help them" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/9). In Newark, Rich Chere notes Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk has created "a lot of speculation with comments that suggest there is a chance he won't return" to the NHL. Kovalchuk was quoted as saying, "(I'm) not in a hurry to get to America. Time will tell. Nothing is out of the question" (NJ.com, 1/8).
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