Will Bettman be smiling on Sept 15th? Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

NHL Lockout Countdown - 29 Days

The time is quickly running out for the NHL and NHLPA to come to an agreement before the scheduled opening of training camps.  The owners opened the proceedings with their first offer (if you want to call it that) on July 15th. More like a wish list that a child would send to Santa Claus in early December.   Another salary rollback, a drastic cut in revenue share to the players and limiting the length of contracts were all key components of the owners’ first proposal.  Essentially ignoring the proposal, the players association tabled their first offer this past week that included a larger revenue sharing plan among the franchises to help the lower revenue teams, and a removing the link between revenue and they Salary Cap.  Their offer was an increase in the salary cap of 2% in year 1, 4% in year 2 and 6% in year 3 of the deal.

Essentially, I don’t blame the players one bit for lining their birdcage with the owners offer.   Whether or not you considered it just a starting point for negotiations or a thumb of their nose towards the NHLPA,  it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.  Essentially the owners,  who claimed they “won” with the Salary Cap last time around and the resulting salary rollback, think they are going to get the players to accept that again.  I am quite surprised they proposed the reduction they did right off the bat.  The offer the NHLPA tabled on Wednesday, although not perfect, is a quantum leap forward from what the league presented.

Too bad it took them a full month to present it.  The framework is there for a deal in my opinion, although the numbers will need to be ironed out.  And there are a couple of aspects from the owners proposal that could (and maybe should) be implemented in the new CBA. But time is quickly running out, because of the lack of foresight by the two sides and making the CBA end just before the season starts,  instead of just after it ends, like the NFL did.

How much more urgency  would there be if the lockout began on July 1st instead of Sept 15th?   Over 100 players signed contracts in July.  If they couldn’t have done so because of a work stoppage and their future in doubt you can bet there would be more pressure to get things done.  Not to mention that the league has operated for two months since the season ended with a set of rules that will be completely different in many ways when the puck drops, whenever that may be.

Quite frankly there are more than a couple things that are boggling my mind about how the negotiations have gone.

The small market/low revenue teams are not shouting from the rooftops demanding better revenue sharing.  The last CBA was great for the Toronto, Montreal and NYRs of the league, but the Phoenix and Floridas of the world were completely ignored in the grand scheme of things.  The revenue growth in the small markets can’t keep pace with the big markets and as a result they are dragged along for a ride they can’t afford.  Meanwhile Toronto has a profit of over $80M (in 2010-11).

The lack of urgency to get something done. Both sides have known for a long time that this deadline was coming, and for either side to wait until just two months before D-Day to put forth an offer (and not much of one) is insulting to those fans as well as the people on the outside who depend on games to make their living.

Let’s hope there is a lot more urgency from both sides over the next month than there has been over the last.


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