LOCKOUT: Day Thirty-Two – NHL powerplay has players on D.


April 25, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of TD Garden before the start of game seven of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

In a surprising, and borderline miraculous move, the NHL sent a new proposal to the player’s union.  The offer was made one day after the players missed their first official paycheck on their contracts. The timing has caught the players and the fans off guard. This shrewd move now shifts some of the blame for the lack of a CBA resolution on to the players. It also shows the fans that the league and the Board of Governors want hockey just as bad as the players and fans.

For the sake of honesty and candor, it is obvious I am not one of Gary Bettman’s fans. I believe the man was chomping at that bit weeks before the deadline for a lockout. His heavy handed tactics frustrated the players, and had fans like myself seeing red. However, one has to take a step back and appreciate the master stroke this proposal is.  The fact the league put the proposal up on the internet (currently on the NHL’s homepage.) shows 1.) the league’s sincerity, and 2.) puts the spotlight off the owners and on to the players. Let’s take a quick review down the main points and see how this plan with only a few small tweaks could lead to a restoration of NHL hockey and perhaps a full regular season.

The owner’s want a fifty-fifty split of hockey related revenue. That’s meeting the players half way from the owners’ initial forty three percent offer and the current players’ fifty seven percent. It’s safe to say that NHLPA director Fehr was expecting to settle somewhere around the fifty line, and this caveat likely raised very few eyebrows when the proposal was first made public.

Salary Arbitration is being allowed to stay. This is a minor breakthrough as the owners had refused this on all previous offers. It gives the owners the veneer of concessions, and allows the player’s union to declare a limited victory overall.

NHL Clubs who draft European players obtain four years of exclusive negotiating rights following selection in the Draft.  If the four-year period expires, players will be eligible to enter the League as a Free Agent and will not be subject to re-entering the Draft.

The league proposal also includes an introduction of additional procedural safeguards, including ultimate appeal right to a “neutral” third-party arbitrator with a “clearly erroneous” standard of review. I can’t see how the players will object to another level of oversight rather than just relying on the ‘Shanaban‘ for disciplinary action. (Right, Marshy?)

No rollback on any current contract. One of the sticklers that had players like Shawn Thornton so upset was the possibility of losing a part of his paycheck before he even saw it. This clause allows the players not to feel threatened and shows the good faith of the owners. (I swear, I sat on that last sentence for an easy ten to fifteen minutes before I decided to keep it in there.)

This part I’m pulling up straight from the NHL proposal:

• The League proposes to make Players “whole” for the absolute reduction in Players’ Share dollars (when compared to 2011/12) that is attributable to the economic terms of the new CBA (the “Share Reduction”).  Using an assumed year-over-year growth rate of 5% for League-wide revenues, the new CBA could result in shortfalls from the current level of Players’ Share dollars ($1.883 Billion in 2011/12) of up to $149 million in Year 1 and up to $62 million in Year 2, for which Players will be “made whole.”  (By Year 3 of the new CBA, Players’ Share dollars should exceed the current level ($1.883 Billion for 2011/12) and no “make whole” will be required.)  Any such “shortfalls” in Years 1 and 2 of the new CBA will be computed as a percentage reduction off of the Player’s stated contractual compensation, and will be repaid to the Player as a Deferred Compensation benefit spread over the remaining future years of the Player’s SPC (or if he has no remaining years, in the year following the expiration of his SPC).  Player reimbursement for the Share Reduction will be accrued and paid for by the League, and will be chargeable against Players’ Share amounts in future years as Preliminary Benefits.  The objective would be to honor all existing SPCs by restoring their “value” on the basis of the now existing level of Players’ Share dollars.

This CBA so surprised Fehr, he called a meeting of the players to have them all go through it. Commissioner Bettman gave the NHLPA a ten day grace period to look at it, digest it, and respond to it. After all the snarling and posturing,  the league and the ownership are being surprisingly magnanimous. As much as I want to say, ‘beware Bettmans bearing gifts.’ we might be on track here for hockey by November.