New York — The NHL and NHLPA will resume labor talks on Wednesday at the league offices in New York. The two parties are looking to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to take effect immediately as the existing one is set to expire on September 15, 2012.
One of the major sticking points in the negotiation process is the split of the total revenue of the league’s business operations. The players like their cut, but the owners do not. Renaud Lavoie, a journalist with RDS in Montreal, reported last Friday the NHL initial offer to the NHL Players’ Association would reduce the player’s hockey related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent.
Lavoie also reported that the players would be forced to wait 10 years before they were eligible for unrestricted free agency and that contracts would be limited to five years. The belief is the league would like to eliminate the long term deals like the ones Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Roberto Luongo signed. The NHL also wants no more salary arbitration and entry-level contracts extended from three years to five years.
Many people around hockey believe that the stance by the owners is a very rigid one, but if you look at the industry standard of revenue sharing it is not that significant. The industry standard is about 47 percent amongst the other three major sports in the United States. In the MLB it is 47 percent, in the NFL it is 48 percent amongst the three major sources of revenue, and in the NBA it is 50 percent give or take a percent. So this is not that unreasonable for the NHL to ask for about 46 percent.
Those around hockey believe if the NHL does not come off their stance than we are looking at another lockout. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not echo that sentiment, but did say Friday after the meeting, “We’ve got a lot of work to do in a relative short period of time.”
Bettman’s view on timetable for a new collective bargaining agreement has changed dramatically in a year. In 2011 Bettman was asked about the collective bargaining agreement and his response was, “the good news, from my standpoint, is that it’s too early to focus on collective bargaining, particularly since the other sports leagues have to go first.”
Bettman was referring to the NFL lockout, NBA lockout, and the MLB negotiations. Those
Sports leagues resolved their labor disputes and now the clock is ticking on the NHL to get a new agreement in place without losing a major portion of the season. The optimism that was there a year ago has now turned into pessimism.
However, his counterpart NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr has no idea what kind of short timeframe the commissioner is talking about. Fehr believes that you would want to get a deal done as quickly as possible and a strike would be the last resort. Fehr believes the season could start on time without a new collective bargaining agreement if both sides agree to play under the old agreement.
“What a last resort” means is you bargain in good faith, you do everything you can, you listen carefully to what the other side says, you make counter proposals when you can, where you believe it’s consistent with the kind of contract you believe is appropriate, and you keep at it until you get an agreement. Hopefully the other side shares that.”
Fehr’s history shows that he is about protecting the rights of the players under the National Labor Relations Act. He feels the players are effectively 50-50 partners with the owners over anything that affects their work rules. The NHLPA under Fehr has already rejected the planned realignment plan proposed by the owners.
Fans of the National Hockey League are getting sick and tired of hearing about labor problems in a sport that has been growing since the last lockout. Fans are asking the NHL why do you they need major changes in the CBA and business model, when the game of hockey has never been stronger? Why not keep the status quo with some minor changes?
These are legitimate questions fans are asking because the owners who are complaining about the system needing change are the same owners who are signing players to these long term deals. Ultimately the NHL owners would like to see a 50-50 split of total hockey related revenue, so their first proposal always for some room to go up.
If the signs are the for another lockout in the National Hockey League, that means this would be the third work stoppage under Gary Bettman’s reign as commissioner. The first lockout in 1994-95 delayed the start of the season and forced a 48-game regular season schedule. The second lockout came in 2004-05, where the league shut down for the entire season.
It has taken years for the NHL to recover from the lost season. A third lockout under his reign would have a lasting impact on the legacy of Bettman as a commissioner. He would be known as the commissioner who caused more work stoppages than any other commissioner in any of the major sports.
Most fans disagree with Bettman’s views on hockey to grow the game of hockey and their reaction can be heard any time he steps on the ice at an NHL arena. If he really wants to keep growing the sport of hockey, then both parties will do everything in their power to resolve the situation.
With the sport being at an all time high, there is no reason for hockey to take a step backwards in order to take two steps forwards.