Despite the gloom which permeated NHL CBA coverage on Thursday, it must be remembered real progress has been made this week between the two sides as they inch closer to a deal.
They’ve reportedly agreed to a ten-year CBA (though the NHL wants an opt-out clause at year 8, while the PA wants it at year 7) and reached agreement on $200 million in revenue-sharing.
The league has agreed to 2 compliance/amnesty buyouts per team for the ’13-’14 season, which would likely take place in late-June 2013. A problem with the language in the HRR over penalties for teams which “hide” revenue was resolved Thursday morning, though it did contribute to mounting tension between the two sides.
Salary variance, which the league initially sought at five percent, has increased to somewhere between 20-30 percent, meaning no year in a multi-year contract can be lower than 60 percent of the highest-paid year.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Thursday evening the PA could be willing to accept a seven-year term limit on standard player contracts. That’s down from their demand for eight years, moving them closer to the league’s offer of six-years.
Though tensions and mistrust still exist, they are moving closer toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
Many NHL fans are impatient for a resolution, but given the league set January 11th as a deadline, both sides will make use of the remaining time in hopes of wrangling concessions from each other.
Does anyone find it more than coincidence an anonymous NHL Board of Governors member claimed (via the Winnipeg Free Press) commissioner Gary Bettman would cancel what remains of the 2012-13 season if there was no CBA deal by January 10th soon after the NHLPA announced it was staging another vote to grant its executive permission to file a disclaimer of interest?
I don’t doubt Bettman and the hawkish owners would cancel this season if there’s no deal by mid-to late-January. Indeed, the sense of urgency in this week’s negotiations suggests both sides are taking the league’s January 11th deadline seriously.
The saber-rattling from this BoG member, however, seems to be another heavy-handed attempt by the league to drive a wedge between NHLPA director Donald Fehr and the players, hoping to pressure the them into accepting a deal as soon as possible.
Since October, however,, the league has made a series of threats which ultimately came to naught. Bettman’s “take-it-or-leave-it” stance in October fell flat as the league softened demands in subsequent offers. The $300 million “make whole” option that was off the table after talks fell through in early December reappeared in the league’s December 27th proposal. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s insistence that five year term limits on player contracts was the hill the league would die on rang hollow after a six-year term limit was included in its recent proposal.
The league has cried wolf too many times. The players want to get back on the ice as soon as possible, but they’re not going to be pushed by the owners into accepting a lesser deal.
Speaking of coincidence, anyone else notice the league’s desire to open a 48-game season on January 19 coincides with NBC beginning its televising of the NHL’s 2012-13 season on the same weekend?
Granted, that schedule is likely to change for a 48-game season. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported the Penguins would open the season on January 19 with a nationally televised matinee against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
Factor in NBC Sports Network president of programming Jon Miller recently voicing his frustration to the Boston Globe over the length of this lockout, and it appears Bettman is facing pressure from more than just some nervous big market owners for a season-saving deal.
Still, Bettman needs only the support of eight NHL owners to approve or reject a deal. He may have been pressured to make that December 27th pitch to the PA which sparked the latest round of talks, but he’s still the one calling the tune on the league’s side. He’s got enough owners on his side to make that final decision to lift the lockout, or cancel the season.
NHLPA director Donald Fehr was chided by some observers for deciding not to file a disclaimer of interest at the 11.59 PM deadline on January 2.
Reports suggest the league’s tone in negotiations changed when Fehr allowed the deadline to lapse, sparking suggestions the PA director lost the leverage he needed against the league. Several players were reportedly upset with Fehr for not filing, while some on the owners side suggest he lost his nerve or suffered doubts.
Given Fehr’s long history in sports labor negotiations, anyone on the league’s side seriously suggesting he lost his nerve or is plagued by self-doubt is fooling themselves.
As for those players stumping for Fehr to file the disclaimer while negotiations were ongoing, that could have provoked the league to claim the PA was bargaining in bad faith at a time when negotiations reached a critical juncture, leading to a collapse in talks when the two sides were closing in on a deal.
Fehr’s critics claim he doesn’t care about getting a season-saving deal, that he wants the season to be cancelled, and is hell-bent on disbanding the union in order to transfer this standoff into the courts.
The fact he didn’t file for disclaimer on January 2 flies in the face of that conspiracy theory. Fact is, Fehr is a union man, doesn’t like the idea of disbanding the PA, prefers negotiations, and put disclaimer to a vote of the membership with the understanding the decision to file would be up to him.
If Fehr had filed on January 2, he would’ve been accused by the owners and his critics among the media as deliberately attempting to sabotage negotiations and is out to serve his own interests.
The current vote for disclaimer by the players is to re-establish a measure of leverage in negotiations with the owners. If, as expected, the players vote again for disclaimer, it would be a mistake to assume Fehr won’t use that option. He might not like it, but will use it if he feels negotiations are going nowhere.