For the first time in these painful CBA negotiations, Tuesday yielded some optimism as the NHL came forth with a new proposal that offered a 50/50 split in hockey-related revenue and numerous other details that the NHL outlined on its website.
The immediate response from union head Donald Fehr was very measured. He didn't want to say much without really looking and dissecting the proposal.
"And, so, what our hope is that after we review this, that there will be a feeling on the players' side that this is a proposal from which we can negotiate and try to reach a conclusion," Fehr said Tuesday after the meeting. "But, we are not in a position to make any comments about it beyond that at this point."
To expect an immediate response would be unfair. There is a lot that goes into these offers, and it just can't be judged immediately. But after sitting on it for a few hours, the NHLPA was able to draw some conclusions. That hissing sound you hear is optimism seeping out of the room like air from a balloon.
In a letter sent to TSN's Bob McKenzie from Fehr, he outlined the players' reaction to the NHL proposal. Naturally, it's not looking as good to him as it is to everybody else.
-- "Simply put, the owners' new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights. As you will see, at the 5 per cent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion. What do the owners offer in return?"
-- "The proposal does represent movement from their last negotiating position, but still represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners, in salary and benefits (the Players' Share) and in individual player contracting rules."
That's only a part of Fehr's reaction, but it all pretty much falls in line with that. In other words, we're still a long way from getting a deal done.
But the one thing that everybody can agree on is that we have a starting point now for negotiations. For the guarded people, that was the extent of the optimism after Tuesday. It was pretty clear it wasn't going to result in a deal by the end of the weekend, but it might be what starts paving the road.
After seeing Fehr's response, we can assume they don't have the necessary tools to start building that road just yet.
The players insist on getting some things this time around. The entire premise of the owners' goal in this lockout immediately involved a pretty drastic reduction in the players' share of HRR. If they are going to give up so much in that regard, they would like to see a lot more in their favor -- it will still be a tough pill to swallow for the union.
Fehr's response shouldn't kill all hope that a deal is there to be reached. All it achieves is reminding us that we're still a long ways away, and the Nov. 2 proposed starting date from the NHL is a fantasy. If this were a marathon, we'd still be in the first couple of miles. At least the race has started.