It took about six weeks of negotiations, but the NHLPA made its first Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal to the NHL on Tuesday in Toronto. The meeting, which was attended by numerous NHL players including Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, lasted about only two hours.
In that time the NHLPA put forth a proposal that wasn't necesarily a counter-proposal to the owners' original offer, but an "alternate view."
While Gary Bettman wouldn't address anything specifically about the offer, he did say it was well-constructed.
"It's clear to me that they didn't put it together in an hour or two," Bettman told reporters after the meetings broke. He went on to say the owners "need time to evaluate" the proposal and will likely have a response on Wednesday when the sides meet again. In the meantime the owners are going to gather and digest.
Besides the obvious response of "Well yes, Gary, it's been about six weeks in the making" it begs the question of how the NHL plans to respond so quickly to such an admittedly well-thought-out proposal from the NHLPA? The easiest summation is that the proposal didn't actually have much of anything they weren't expecting and/or found to be extremely offensive.
We might actually not be looking at a doomsday scenario again. In fact, things were feeling quite the opposite Tuesday. Check out these tweets from Aaron Ward of TSN from on the scene in Toronto on the owners' perspective. To say they're encouraging is to put it mildly.
First impression of NHLPA proposal was that it was not a 'counter attack' in response to the League's July 13th proposal.— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) August 14, 2012
Second impression was that it possessed economic elements that were 'interesting' to the League.— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) August 14, 2012
Interesting elements? Not a counter attack? Better than expected? Why, I might just be gaining some optimism over here. Those are all great buzzwords. What in the proposal could have brought about such positive remarks?
NHLPA boss Donald Fehr talked afterward and gave some of the details on the offer.
• Eliminating the hard salary cap as was rumored to be part of the offer? No, that's staying. There might be some minor exceptions to the hard cap system but nothing major.
• The players would agree to take a lower share of the hockey-related revenue for the next three years. In exchange for that concession the proposal calls for a dramatic increase in revenue sharing, as much as possibly $250 million per season.
• The players would be willing to take a lower share of the revenue and give the revenue sharing a shot to help the struggling franchises.
• The proposal also calls for no changes to the current contract rules. The original offer from the owners called for limits on contract lenghts and making entry-level deals longer as well as the restricted free agency rules.
• In addition, all contracts made under the previous CBA will not be altered.
• The proposal is only a three-year plan, designed to be long enough to allow the owners to see what life is like and if it's completely unacceptable then to revisit things in three years. In the fourth year the owners could revert to the current CBA and then get back to work on another deal.
That's just a taste of the offer, I'm sure, but it's a pretty delicious one. In talking to the reporters, Fehr was stressing the players' desire to get a deal done and that is pretty much reflected in the positioning of their first proposal here.
What it still does, though, is pit owners vs. owners. The players are making their concessions but asking the owners to do it, too, specifically the big-market owners. That's a lot of revenue to share to help some of the other teams float.
This proves to the owners in case they weren't already what they are up against this time around. The thought is that it caught the NHL by surprise to see how strong the offer was, and how comprehensive. You can read between the lines and piece that together. Well, that is what happens when the NHLPA actually has some organization and is being led by Donald Fehr.
Hopefully the positive vibes will continue and we can get a deal because all of a sudden it seems possible.