The NHL and NHLPA met Thursday to respond to the NHL’s third Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal. The NHLPA submitted three counter offers which were eventually all declined by the league last night.
The league surprised the players and fans with a 50/50 offer on Tuesday. The players carefully reviewed and, as expected, offered a counter. But this time, they proposed three variations to the league. Gary Bettman appeared in front of the media and expressed his disappointment with players’ union.
“None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach (a) 50-50 (revenue split), either at all or for some long period of time,” said Bettman.
Sidney Crosby, along with Shane Doan and Jonathon Toews, each spoke to the media and expressed the side of the players.
“The timing of this (week’s) is pretty ironic, thinking that the only way of getting 82 games in is figuring something out in the next week. I think that’s by design,” said the captain of the Penguins. “You come with three proposals (Thursday) and it’s shut down in 10 minutes, not even a day to think about them. That doesn’t seem like a group willing to negotiate.”
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews also weighed in, saying that the talks have come full circle and that all the players are asking is for the league to honour the current contracts players are under.
Shane Doan offered an interesting analogy on the situation in a satirical tone.
“We did come to 50-50 as they proposed,” said the Phoenix Coyotes captain. “When people ask for money, they usually say ‘give me your money or I’m going to hurt you. They don’t say ‘give me your money and I’m going to hurt you.’”
Though the players feel there three proposals were worth at least a serious look, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained that the numbers released by the players are inaccurate.
“It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year 1 and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement,” said Daly of the player proposals. “The proposal contemplates paying the players approximately $650 million outside of the players’ share. In effect, the union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say ’50-50,’ when in reality it is not. The union told us that they had not yet ‘run the numbers.’ We did.”
Still feeling optimistic?
For what it’s worth, here is the breakdown of the three proposals offered by the NHLPA on Thursday.
The first proposal would give players a set revenue for a small raise over the first three years. Their salaries for the remainder of the deal would freeze at the third year number until the players’ revenue sharing percentage hit 50 percent.
The second proposal was almost identical in revenue percentages. However, the players would receive 24.7 percent of new revenues as their league revenue shares would decline to 50 percent.
The third proposal was a very different deal and likely left players puzzled at why the league didn’t review thoroughly and consider it. It called for a 50/50 split in league revenues, as long as the NHL honoured the existing player contracts. This, however, was the offer that Daly refuted as “not a 50/50″ deal and was being misrepresented.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr responded to the NHL declining their three offers Thursday.
“This is not a good day. It should have been, but it’s not,” said Fehr. “The players offered to make real recessions in terms of reductions in their share out of HRR.”
TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted after the refusal that he wouldn’t be surprised if the league responds to the meetings with an announcement of the cancellation of a chunk of season games. Is this going to be our next news in the hockey world?
Despite the demoralizing set-back in Thursday’s labour talks, in which Bettman described as a “step back” in progress, the NHLPA said they are open to continue negotiations. They stated their commitment to saving the 82-game schedule and that the only way to do that is to come to an agreement by next week.
The third time didn’t appear to be the charm in Thursday talks. The small margin in visible difference between the two sides is frustrating for the fans of the sport, especially if it results in a lost season. But did we really believe a deal would get done before the eleventh hour?
The league made a significant gesture by refusing the union’s three proposals within minutes. The NHLPA submitted three offers in an effort to seem compliant with league demands, along with a semi-last-ditched effort to save the full season. The real last-ditch effort will come from both sides next week, when they realize the season has to be saved.
As expected in any professional negotiation, both sides will attempt to extract maximum value. In this case, the players are aware of the league’s effort to significantly lower players’ shares in HRR. Not just in these talks, but the talks in the last lockout. Looking ahead, they realize that the next talks will likely be just as demanding.
Fans need to understand that the players are not only negotiating for the next 5-7 years, but the affected years beyond that. As unrealistic as an 82-game season seems at this point, remember that, just like in trade deadlines, the maximum value in negotiations is usually found in the dying minutes prior to that deadline.
Though Bettman says they are not “speaking the same language,” the numbers suggest that the two sides are not as far apart as the commissioner makes it seem. If both sides are serious about getting back to hockey and a full schedule, they will find a way to get a deal agreed to by next week.
Stay tuned and keep those fingers crossed hockey fans.