June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announces a trade between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the eighth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Fehr & NHLPA offer counter-proposal. Hope on the horizon.

Trade alert is not far off the mark. Despair over the impending NHL lockout may actually be traded in for some solid hope. The long awaited counter-response from the NHLPA was delivered to the league and the board of governors today.  NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr, in the presence of two dozen NHL players offered up the condensed version of the plan. “Today the players made a proposal on the core-economic issues which we we believe should lead to a new CBA.” told Fehr to the assembled media. “The players did not believe (and rightly so) that the owners initial proposal was appropriate or likely to do that.” The half hour long presentation to the owners was accompanied by a dossier fleshing out the specifics of the proposal.

The players are willing to take a reduction in revenues for the next three seasons. If all growth rates for hockey revenues remain constant the players are giving up an estimated $465 million dollars. If the growth rate is akin to the last two seasons (perhaps the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 helped there), the players could be surrendering as much as $800 million dollars in revenue generated income. Ouch!  The players are certainly making a commitment on their end.

“Once implemented[the players proposal], can produce a stable industry.” offered Fehr. The players wanted to see “targeted revenue sharing” of approximately $250 million per year. A few weeks ago, I put up a story discussing the ‘hidden third party’ in the NHL/NHLPA talks. That third party were the ‘have nots’ of the the league. The teams due to bad location, and/or bad decisions were left in a financially deep hole. The poorer teams were more willing to fight the players for the revenue rather than take on the big market, profit powerhouses of the league.

The NHLPA has taken this into consideration.  Fehr addressed the revenue disparity in part of the proposal. “In essence, when you boil it all down, what we’re suggesting is that the players partner wit the financially stronger owners to help stabilize the industry and assist the less financially strong ownership groups.”  I am not one hundred percent sure on how the Board of Governors will vote on this, but a well worded argument like this should get the teams in the red (eighteen at last count) on board with this plan. The players are “in short, we propose fixing the problems that may exist, not fixing the ones that don’t.”

The players are perfectly willing to let the salary cap remain in place. “The owners as you all know are not interested, or have not indicated an intrest in that approach, and our desire is to try to make an agreement.” Fehr continued on the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ tack. Also, the players put forth that the current CBA’s clauses on player contracting would remain the safe. Terms of free agency and contract lengths would hold under the 2006 CBA. For the amount of the cash the players surrendered on round one of the counter-offer, it would be foolhardy to the point of insanity to try to push the players much further without guaranteeing the lock-out that no one (perhaps Bettman and four or five of the owners) would desire.

This current collective bargaining agreement has probably developed some of the best informed hockey players ever to enter negotiations. Fehr commented that in the last seventy two hours, Fehr, the players on the committee, and the staff had reached out and communicated with over a third of the players in the entire league. That’s bloody impressive. Granted, modern technology can claim some of the credit, but with this much on the line…it shows the dedication of the players determined to keep up the negotiation in good faith.

“Regardless how you review the industry as a whole….address the concerns that are given to you, if you believe that you can do so, consistent with your obligations to your own constituents and negotiating a fair deal.” Fehr looked to the NHL players behind him. “Players certainly hope that there’s no lockout, as I’ve indicated before they’re prepared to continue negotiating until we reach an agreement and not shut the season down.  They want to play every bit as much as the fans want to watch them play. So we certainly hope that’s the rule.”

Fehr would not comment on what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman or the owners thought of the proposal. Bettman who at one point said the owners would be ready to comment within a day seemed to have a change of heart. “It’s clear to me that they didn’t put it together in an hour or two, and as a result we’re going to need to take a little bit of time to evaluate it, understand it,” Bettman said. “If we’re going to respond, we want to respond appropriately.” Well, it’s a start.

The current CBA as we all know ends on September 15th. The players are willing to keep going and negotiating past that deadline. Bettman has stated that the owners would impose the lockout if no agreement was reached. This first proposal might cause a paradigm shift here. Teams in the red, or on the verge of failure now see an olive branch extended to them. The ‘targeted revenue share’ monies would be extended to the teams trying to become profitable.  This is an unusual word to use in a hockey blog, but the players are making a sincere effort to bring egalitarianism the business side of the National Hockey League.

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Tags: CBA Don Fehr Gary Bettman NHL Nhlpa

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