Just when I was about to write that Gary Bettman and Don Fehr need to realize that making a concession or two to get negotiations going faster was not necessarily a sign of weakness, Bettman and the ownership group surprised everyone in the hockey world by tabling a new offer to the NHLPA.
Although complete details were not available, the NHL apparently offered a 50/50 split of hockey related revenues, with no salary rollback. Under their proposal, the league would begin play on November 2nd, and teams would cram in all 82 games.
As critical as I have been towards Bettman and the NHL for over a year, I have to applaud them for making this step, and now the ball is firmly in the players’ court to mull the offer over and pick it apart.
The biggest question about the money will be, although the league has accepted the lack of a rollback, how will the escrow payments be handled. Would it in effect be a rollback after the fact instead of off the top? Bettman acknowledged the question and said the proposal addresses the escrow situation.
Another issue in the ownership proposal is the five year maximum on player contracts. I am sure free agency is also included.
Do I think the players will accept this offer as presented? No. However, am I optimistic that a deal can now get done and a complete season played? Yes. I have felt, like many others that mid-November would be the tipping point and games would begin in early December.
This move by the ownership, whether out of desperation to fix its reputation in the eyes of the fans or pressure from sponsors and the high revenue teams to get the season going, is unexpected but most welcomed.
The biggest question I haven’t seen an answer to yet, is whether or not the revenues sharing system between the teams has been addressed? Because if that system continues status quo, the concessions made by both parties to get a deal done won’t matter a bit. We will be in the same predicament again in 5 years, or however long the new CBA lasts.