Looking back at a couple of notable news items regarding the ongoing NHL CBA negotiations.
David Shoalts of The Globe & Mail speculates the NHLPA will propose a more robust revenue sharing system based on the model of Major League Baseball – of which NHLPA director and former head of MLB’s players union Donald Fehr had a hand in constructing – whenever it finally tables its counter-proposal to the NHL.
As Shoalts points out (citing a former NHL governor), it’s not likely to thrill the NHL’s big market owners unless the PA can convince them every team will become profitable. Shoalts also cited an anonymous player agent claiming revenue sharing is the only answer to the league’s problems.
CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio also weighed in on the subject, pointing out a luxury tax system – akin to that in MLB – may be what’s discussed in upcoming talks, a system player agent Allan Walsh strongly supports.
Revenue sharing via a luxury tax might not be the “only answer”, but in my opinion it could be the best one. Sure, no system is perfect (the current CBA is a prime example), but reducing the players share of hockey-related revenue (HRR) and rolling back salaries again is only a temporary measure. Unless there’s a better system of revenue sharing, the league will be right back in the same mess again whenever the next CBA expires.
Indeed, the mess could become much worse, if one or two or three of the existing NHL franchises are relocated or folded if the big market owners get their way by nixing a more robust revenue sharing system.
As for the players, they might have to agree to a reduction in their share of revenue (not as sharp as the league seeks in its initial proposal) in order to get the owners onside with sharing revenue.
It all comes down to the league’s willingness to compromise and seriously examine all options for improving the distribution of revenue. If it digs in its heels and keeps pushing for more big give-backs from the players, then things get ugly and the start of the season will surely be delayed.
Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News suggests the NHLPA should propose to accept a 50-50 split of revenue in their counter-proposal to speed up negotiations.
Eventually, the players will probably accept such a split, just as most observers believe the league’s initial offer is merely its way of eventually getting the PA to accept it.
It’s highly unlikely, however, the PA will do so with their counter-proposal. They’ll push a system, as Shoalts noted, heavy on revenue-sharing. It’s possible they might – emphasis on “might” – agree to a modest revenue reduction of 2-3 percent, but I don’t believe they’ll agree to a 50-50 split right away.
I share Heika’s desire to see these talks sped up, as I’m sure most fans do, but these things will take time, and could result in a delay in the start of the upcoming season.
You know the league is having a difficult time selling their initial CBA proposal when the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont, who was firmly in the league’s corner during the last lockout05, is chiding the owners for their hardline stance:
“What the owners need most today is not a radical new deal with the players, but a new way of dealing with themselves. They need to find a more honest, equitable, dare we say visionary method of spreading the profit and wealth among the 30 guys on their team. The 800 or so union members who play for their teams aren’t the problem, not anymore.”
Without coming right out and saying it, Dupont is suggesting an improve system of revenue sharing. Here’s more:
“To find the reasonable “middle’’ now, it’s up to the owners to find a better way of sharing the cigars, cognac, Lamborghinis, and private jets, all the spoils that come with a thriving business. If they shut down the game again, it’s truly on them this time. The current deal proved them right. They’ve both grown the game’s popularity and lifted the tide of revenue. They got their business in order and now they need to prove to be equally astute in sharing and managing their profits. That’s really not a labor issue. It’s an ownership, greed, avarice issue. They asked the workers to fix it last time, and they capitulated. Now it’s their turn. Time for the owners to stop pointing fingers at the players, get a mirror, and add a little creativity to their look.”
I disagree with Dupont’s claim the current CBA proved the owners “right”, as it didn’t achieve the cost certainty required to make all 30 franchise profitable. It also didn’t make the game more affordable for fans, which the league claimed it would in the months leading up to the last lockout, nor did it prevent crafty general managers from exploiting loopholes (front-loading contracts, burying salaries in the minors, loaning players to Europe) in the current agreement.
Still, Dupont is correct in saying the owners have to find a better way to distribute HRR among themselves, and it’ll be on the owners if there’s another NHL lockout.