Hockey Alert: Proposal to End Lockout

lockout

So it has come to this, hockey’s version of “High Noon”. After enlisting Donald Fehr as head of the NHLPA to spearhead the CBA negotiations, the Players knew that this may be a long, drawn out fight, and it has been just that. With over 50% of the season lost, and the Owners’ having no interest in anything less than a 48 game season, the so-called “Drop Dead Date” of January 11th (rumored) for an agreement to be reached is looming in the very near future.

The timing is right for a deal to be struck, we are reaching the point of no return, and we are bearing down on a more pressing date, January 2nd, which is the deadline that the Players have to disband the Players’ Union, which has been seen as their last resort option. If the Players were to disband, considering all the egos involved in this whole mess, you can nearly bet the farm that the entire season, and legitimately perhaps the NHL as a whole, could be lost.

With lower earning teams such as Anaheim, Florida, Phoenix, etc., DESPERATE to get the season started and revenue coming in again, and many other of the mid-tier teams sick of this whole fiasco, the NHL proposed a new CBA agreement to the NHLPA late Thursday night that, for the first time, truly shows the NHL making some concessions. This proposal is the first proposal that I personally feel could, and should be the proposal that puts an end to this embarrassment. Let’s take a look at some of the key points to this CBA proposal.

The Hockey Related Revenue will. Be split 50/50 between the Players and Owners

Although the Players’ share is dropping 7% from the last CBA, this was all but a fore-gone conclusion, and a battle the Players would have been better off to never fight.

The proposal calls for a 10-Year time period for the CBA with a mutual opt-out clause after 8 for both Owners and Players.

The Players have made it known that they do not want a 10-year term on the CBA and were nearly unwilling to go past 7 years, however with the opt-out clause at 8 years and the Owners making some concessions, the 10-year term may not be a deal breaker, and I personally feel that the longer the CBA the better for the fans before the next lockout (knock on wood that that doesn’t happen but history doesn’t lie).

Contract will be limited in length to 6 years, however if teams are resigning a player who plays out the last full year of his contract with a team, THAT team may sign him to 7 years.

This is the biggest concession that the owners have made to date, with NHL  Deputy Commissioner  Bill Daly saying that he “would die on a hill before budging”  from the NHL’s previously proposed 5-year contract limit. As of early Sunday morning Deputy Commissioner Daly is neither dead nor on a hill (at least that I know of). While this limits the Players ability to sign massive money deals that are spread out of 10-years to reduce the cap hit, this will help add to the competitive balance of the league by closing the salary cap loophole of long-term front loaded contracts that owners have been giving out like candy (Shea Weber, Zach Parise).

The “Make Whole” offer of $300 million is included in the proposal

The “Make Whole” stipulation is to honor already existing player contracts. Many players have felt that more than a few recent contracts were signed in bad faith, so this clause assures players that have signed contracts that they will receive the full amount owed. After talks broke down the last time, the NHL pulled the “Make-Whole” offer from the table, but from the Players’ side, a deal would not be struck without it, although I am sure Bettman is taking heat from a few Owners for putting it back on the table.

The 2013-2014 Salary Cap will be dropped to $60 million, with a transition Salary Cap for this season set at $70.2 million, with each team being afforded ONE Compliance Buy-out.

The Players will not be thrilled with this aspect as they were seeking a $67 million cap. This may be the aspect that could keep this deal from being signed. Hopefully if that is the case, the Players will be smart enough to negotiate off of this deal as a whole, and not pitch an entirely new counter offer. The Compliance buy-out is an interesting stipulation because, although teams would still have to pay 2/3 of the salary owed, they will be given complete forgiveness of that player’s Cap Hit.

Two more intriguing aspects of the proposed CBA is the addition of an unspecified “Interview Period” for all upcoming Unrestricted Free Agents, and the second addition is the adjustment to Player Discipline in which Players can appeal to a neutral third party. The latter aspect is a great addition for the players because it avoids an NFL-Type-Roger Goodell-Judge-Jury-Executioner approach to discipline.

With all this in mind, it is time for cooler heads to prevail. With this deal, the Owners will significantly increase their revenue share, and the league as a whole will be more competitive due to the Salary cap aspects and elimination of the cap hit loopholes. The Players, no-doubt are worse off (at least the top paid players) as far as their income RIGHT NOW, but with an increase to the financial health and CBA stability of the league, they will be ok in the long run. The time for posturing, PR battles, and ego-stroking is DONE.

With the two sides scheduled to meet in person later today (Sunday), I am expecting encouraging news. As a fan of the game if talks completely break down again, it would be devastating. I do not believe, necessarily, that a deal will be signed or even agreed in principle to today, but I do feel that with this proposal, that day is close, and certainly closer than it has been to date.

After this whole insane process, I will not be shocked in any way no matter how this turns out, as many in-the-know believe that Fehr will take this down to literally the last minute, but my gut is pushing me to the optimistic side.

*Follow @TheCover4 on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information on the in-person meetings*

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Pat Davis
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
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Locked Out: The State of the NHL

The Cover 4 will feature a number of writers to cover a variety of topics. This article is by our very own Rick Davis, NHL insider.

As October passes and changes to November, the only thing that will be changing for hockey
fans is the page on their calendars. As we all know, the NHL is currently bogged down in its second
extended lockout in 8 years, the third since 1994, and the fourth lockout during Gary Bettman’s 19 year
stint as commissioner of the league. With each passing day, the glimmer of hope for a full 82 game
season(and any season at all for that matter) that briefly shined not long ago is fading fast.

As the news broke of the NHL’s offer to the Players Association on Oct. 16, hope spread
throughout the hockey world, and it seemed that there was a light appearing at the end of the dark,
dingy tunnel that this lockout has become. Sadly, the light wound up being a train, hitting hockey fans
head on. After expressing cautious optimism through their leader, Donald Fehr, the NHLPA presented a
trio of counter proposals that were quickly dismissed by the league and since then, all has been quiet.

Even as an avid hockey follower, the reasons for this lockout become distorted and muddled as
the NHL and the NHLPA spin the PR machine to increase their negotiating advantage. As sports fans, it is
in our nature to pick sides; Team vs. Team, Player vs. Player, or even Owners vs. Players, but in the case
of this lockout, it is really hard to pick a side.

I personally find it hard to pick a side because of one simple fact: I usually pick my “favorites”
based on what they represent. For example, most people’s favorite team is their favorite because they
represent their city, or in some cases, like those of the fans whose city does not have a team, the team
represents a storied history. Likewise, people grow found of certain players because of the individual
qualities that they represent, such as toughness, skill, perseverance, or selflessness. But the truth of the
matter of this lockout is that both sides are representing one thing: MONEY!

It’s that simple, and as passionate as hockey fans are, that is a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact
remains that the key issue in these Collective Bargaining negotiations is the division of Hockey Related
Revenues (HRR). Since the 2004-05 season was completely wiped out and the NHL was banished to the
Outdoor Life Network, the league has been on the comeback trail. Slowly but surely the league started
to regain its footing, and eventually made their way back into the mainstream, despite not having the
advantage that the other Big 4 sports leagues in America had; extensive national coverage on ESPN.

Before this lockout transitioned from threat to reality, the NHL was flying high, posting another
year of record revenues, roughly about $3.2 Billion, which was a $1 billion increase from the season
before, and in great position to continue their economic growth, having just signed a 10-year, $2 billion
television contract with NBC and Versus to continue broadcasting nationally (even though there were
serious negotiations at the time with ESPN, NBC presented the best deal for the league).

At the end of the day, the players and owners are both going to have to compromise on a deal
that splits HRR 50/50. That is going to be a very hard concept for the players to grasp, seeing as in the
last CBA, their split was 57%. The NHLPA, realistically, would have to consider any agreement that gives
the players more than 50% of the revenue split a massive success. Roughly translated, using last year’s
financial figures, the players’ share of HRR would be cut by $224 million if a 50/50 split were to be
enacted. Even to professional athletes, that is not chump change.

In addition, the owners also want to close salary cap loopholes, such as limiting term length of
contracts (therefore these absurd 15-year deals would not be around to lower the salary cap hit of a
front loaded contract), and pushing back the beginning of Unrestricted Free Agency from 28 years of
age to 30. There is also word that the owners would use salary roll-backs as a way of not honoring in
full, the massive contracts signed by players over the past couple of off seasons (see: Ryan Suter and
Zach Parise). The HRR split and the honoring of signed contracts are the key points that the players, as of
now, are refusing to budge on.

As we have all heard a million times when it comes to contracts and financial negotiations, at
the end of the day, this is a business. The owners own this business, and as a business owner, who puts
up the financial risk of fielding an NHL club, it would be bad business to not try and capitalize on the
sport’s soaring popularity and increasing your revenue. While much of the PR machine and some
media focus has, purposely or not, made the owners out to be soulless, money-grubbing monsters, the
fact remains that it is their time and money invested into these clubs, and they want the best return on
that investment that they can get. That sounds like good business to me; however they must make
concessions as well because no business at all is never good business.

So here we are hockey fans, fully engulfed in yet another lockout, with no end in sight for now,
having to watch old playoff series and notable games (with a ridiculously loose title of “classic” attached
to them) on the NHL Network to quench our hockey thirst. If you are like me, at first you were angry,
and wanted to do anything you could to get hockey back, such as heartfelt YouTube videos, threats of
boycotting the game upon its return, and wild notions of not giving ANY money to the teams once they
return, but now I have come to realize that there is, in reality, nothing we can do as fans. We wouldn’t
be fans if we boycotted after or didn’t invest our money into our clubs (ultimately that helps the teams
be competitive). So for now we just have to sit back, relax, keep our fingers crossed, and hope that NHL
13 can satisfy our hockey cravings for now.

Rick Davis

The Cover 4 Featured Sports Writer

http://www.facebook.com/patrick.d.riley.1?fref=ts

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