NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has baited the hook with some delicious chum, and now must wait for a shake on the line.
The National Hockey League’s new proposal to break the deadlock on a new Collective Bargaining Agreeement, borne from talks which stretched into this afternoon in Toronto, includes the following as chief conciliation points:
- A 50-50 split in all Hockey Related Revenues
- No salary rollback
- A full 82-game schedule, to start in early November, should the NHLPA accept those terms
“We very much want to preserve a full 82-game season and in that light we made a proposal, an offer really,” Bettman stated. “It is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and [Stanley Cup] Playoffs.”
One has to wonder why the overture was made today, or what it has to do with Deadspin’s expose of league-paid focus groups that intend to give their cause a PR boost.
Also of note, Bettman’s assertion that the deal wasn’t done “overnight” and why he waited until talks shifted to union ground in Canada, rather than making an overture in New York in owners’ territory.
One caveat in the new proposal, is that a salary rollback will reportedly be achieved in a cut in the players’ escrow account, and not through existing contracts themselves.
“Gary indicated to me and I assume he indicated to you that they would like to
get a full 82-game season in,” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said in his opposing statement. “We, of course, share that view and would like to get a full 82-game season in. 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. But, we are not in a position to make any comments about it beyond that at this point.”
Also included in the plan, according to additional reports, will be a five-
year limit on all future contracts, entry-level deals will expand to four
years, and players will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at age 28 or
after eight years of service to one team.
In an afternoon press conference, Fehr’s only definitive answer on action he and the union plans to take, was to say that the proposal will be viewed thoroughly and then he will discuss with the players if it is an offer from which they can further negotiate.
Below is the full transcript of Bettman’s talk with a media contingent following the summit between he, Bill Daly and the Fehr brothers.
Good afternoon, everyone. Bill Daly and I just spent the last hour with Don and Steve Fehr, and I would like to briefly report to you on what was discussed. As I think all of you know we have been extremely disappointed, and that’s an understatement, that we’ve been unable to get these negotiations on the essential elements moving forward. So, today, we began by discussing with Don and Steve that if we were to drop the puck on November 2nd for the start of the regular season, we could preserve an 82-game schedule for the regular season and play full playoffs as we normally do and be done before the end of June.
We very much want to preserve a full 82-game season, and in that light, we made a proposal, an offer, really that is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs, and this offer that we made obviously was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season.
A lot of you know we don’t negotiate publicly, and I’m not going to break that habit because I don’t think it’s constructive. The fact of the matter is, we offered a 50-50 share of HRR, hockey related revenues, and we believe we addressed the concern that players have about what happens to their salaries as a result in this year of reducing the percentage from 57 to 50%.
Beyond that, I don’t want to get into the substance other than to say we believe that this was a fair offer for a long-term deal, and it’s one that we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on November 2nd — which backing up, entails at least a one-week training camp. So we have about nine or ten days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.
We hope that this effort that we’ve undertaken today would be successful because we know how difficult this all has been for everybody associated with the game, particularly our fans.
How confident are you that this is going to go forward?
Well, we certainly hope it will. We’ve given it our best shot.
What was the reaction?
The reaction was that they obviously need to study it, and so we told them that we’re available to them. But they’re going to need some time to review it, and I respect that portion of the process. Obviously, they’ve got to understand the offer and get comfortable with it.
Was it just the core economic issues in terms of the offer?
We had a number of significant elements that we believe can and should serve as the basis of a deal to get us playing hockey.
Why do this today?
Because if we want to have an 82-game regular season, if we want to preserve an 82-game regular season and you back up the timetable in terms of the schedule, we needed to do it.
By the way, in terms of the schedule, so everybody understands, the compression that would be involved is one additional game every five weeks. Beyond that, we don’t think it would be good for the players or for the game. But if you look at what our ability would be to schedule 82 games and you work back from November 2nd, if we didn’t do it now, if we didn’t put an effort on the table that we thought was fair and could get us playing hockey, if we didn’t do it now, then it probably wasn’t going to happen for a while. Because, again, it’s done in the spirit of getting a full season in.
Is it 50-50 across the board?
It’s 50-50 across board.
How long of a contract will this be?
I’m not going to get into the specifics. We proposed a long-term contract. We think that’s in everybody’s interest. We think that’s what our fans want.
Can you explain how you address the roll back or the escrow?
There is no roll back, and I’m not going to get into the specifics. It would not be constructive at this point in time. The union has some work to do, and we respect the process. I probably have gone further than I usually have in terms of discussing what we’ve proposed than at any other time. But I’m not comfortable going any further. I’m more concerned about the process right now and getting us back on the ice.
How worried are you they might say no and more of the season will be lost?
I don’t even want to go there.
Is the league amenable to playing an abbreviated schedule?
We’re focused on getting the puck dropped on November 2nd and playing a full 82-game regular season and full playoffs. That’s what this offer is all about.
Have you made plans to meet later in the week?
We’re going to be on-call to them. They have some work to do internally. Obviously, we didn’t put this proposal, this offer, together overnight, and they’re going to need a little time to review it. I’m hoping that review will get us to a positive and constructive place.