NHL LOCKOUT: Day 104 – We’ve been burned a lot, but we still hope.


OK. For the sake of total honesty and complete disclosure, this is essentially everything in the NHL proposal that the league gave to the union. (You know, the union that officially comes undone in five days.) It contains a lot of information, and quite a few concessions on behalf of the ownership, and this may be the best chance we’ve got to save the season this year.

April 12, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton (22) congratulates Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) after he scored the game winning goal during the first overtime period against the Washington Capitals in game one of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Ten-Year Agreement (through 2021/22 season); Parties have mutual opt-out right after 8 years.

– 50-50 Revenue Split between Clubs and Players with current HRR Accounting.

– $300 million in “Make-Whole” payments (outside the system) to compensate Players for the reduced value of Player contracts in the early years of the new CBA.

– No contractual “roll backs” of Player Salaries.

– Clubs can operate with an effective Upper Limit of $70.2 million in 2012/13; must come into compliance with $60 million Upper Limit for the start of the 2013/14 season.

– Each Club will be entitled to execute up to one “Compliance Buy-Out” prior to the 2013/14 season pursuant to which payments made to the Player will not be charged against the team’s Cap, but will be charged against the Players’ Share.

– Establishment of a Defined Benefit Pension Plan that will provide maximum permissible benefits to Players upon retirement. The Plan will be funded with contributions out of Players’ Share and $50 million of the “Make-Whole” payment amount of $300 million will be allocated and set aside to fund potential underfunding liabilities of the Plan at end of CBA.

– Rules for Entry Level System, Salary Arbitration and Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agency will remain unchanged.

– Maximum contract length of 6 years subject to a Club’s ability to re-sign its own Player for a term of up to 7 years (provided the Player played his last full season with the re-signing Club). In addition, year-to-year Salary variability will be limited (up or down) to no more than 10% of the value of the first year of a multi-year SPC.

– Money paid (above a defined threshold) to Players on NHL SPCs in another professional league (e.g., the AHL or a European league) will be charged against the NHL team’s Cap, but not against the Players’ Share.

– “Cap Advantage Recapture” formula applicable to existing long-term contracts (in excess of 6 years) for years in which Player is retired or fails/refuses to perform under his NHL SPC.

– Ability for Clubs to retain/allocate Salary and Cap Charges in the context of Player Trades within specified parameters.

– More robust League-wide Revenue Sharing Program (increased pool from approximately $150 million to $200 million) with creation of Industry Growth Fund to improve the long-term revenue generating potential of the League and low-grossing Clubs. Formation of active Revenue Sharing Oversight Committee on which NHLPA will participate.

– New Player Discipline procedures and protocol incorporating Player appeal rights to a neutral third-party arbitrator for both on-ice and off-ice discipline.

– Flexibility-related adjustments to Payroll Range System, including (in addition to Salary/Cap Charge allocation in Player trades): 1. Lower Limit obligation without performance bonuses; 2. Elimination of Re-Entry Waivers; 3. Creation of Salary Cap exceptions for emergency roster situations/goaltender injuries; 4. Waiver exemptions for mid-season signings of Club’s own European Players; 5. Availability of Performance Bonus Cushion in every year of the CBA; and 6. Creation of “interview period” for Unrestricted Free Agents.

– Various Player contract enhancements and protections, including: 1. Early activation of “No Move/No Trade” clauses in contract extensions; 2. Additional restrictions on Club “buy-out” rights of Player contracts; 3. Modified Waiver obligations for Clubs / enhanced Waiver opportunities for Players; 4. Standardization of reimbursements and benefits related to Player assignments (trades, loans, recalls, etc.); 5. Continued increases in League Minimum Salary and Per Diem; 6. Playoff Pool increased from $6.5 million to $13 million in Year 1; additional regular increases over the balance of the CBA term; 7. All minor league salary paid in USD; 8. Liberalized “Cap treatment” standards for Club initiatives benefitting Players, such as “parent-son” road trips; milestone awards/gifts; parental travel and lodging for attendance at EL Player games, Club provision of various types of “professional development”-type services for Players, etc.

– Player “Working Condition” improvements, including: 1. Ice-time restrictions and mandatory “days off” requirements during Training Camp; 2. Club practice schedule and “days off” requirements during the Regular Season; 3. Extended “Christmas Break” (i.e., December 24-26 “days off” for all purposes); 4. Mandatory facility standards for Visiting Teams relating to training/medical supplies, workout equipment and dressing room standards/supplies; 5. Implementation of “best practices” and continued League initiatives to ensure optimal ice conditions; 6. Tighter restrictions/regulation of Club off-season conditioning requirements and Club Conditioning Camp; and 7. Establishment of annual Orientation and Development Program for Rookies/First Year Players.

– New CBA Article devoted exclusively to Player Health and Safety measures and covering such matters as: 1. The establishment of a Joint NHL/NHLPA Health and Safety Committee with equal representation from the NHL and the NHLPA; 2. The establishment of “Standard of Care” and “Professional Duty” obligations owing from team health care professionals to Players; 3. The establishment of minimum requirements for “health management” staffing and resources; 4. The establishment of standards for the creation, updating and maintenance of Electronic Medical Records for Players; 5. Improvements to Second Medical Opinion procedures and protocol and Fitness to Play determinations; and 6. Implementation of additional steps and safeguards to monitor the use (and possible misuse) of prescription medication by Players. 7. Increased flexibility for Players for rehabilitation of injuries during the offseason.

– Elimination of NHLPA “Guarantee” of Escrow shortfall and increased NHLPA discretion to determine in-season Escrow Rates.

– Completion of expert third-party review of SABH Program and commitment to make recommended modifications and improvements, as appropriate.

– Improvements to existing Performance Enhancing Substances Program, including: 1. Expansion of Prohibited Substances List to include illegal stimulants; 2. The establishment of testing protocol for HGH; 3. Varied forms and times of testing throughout the year; 4. The establishment of protocol for “reasonable cause testing”; 5. Incorporation of agreed-upon appeal procedures from “positive” test results; and 6. Commitment to work with the AHL and the PHPA to expand Program to cover AHL Players.

– Joint (NHL/NHLPA) Committees: 1. )Formation of new “Owner-Player Relations Committee,” with broad-based participation from Owners and Players intended to foster and establish better understanding and stronger working relationships. 2.) Formation of new “Revenue Sharing Oversight Committee” to oversee the operation of the Revenue Sharing System. 3.) Formation of new “Joint Health and Safety Committee” to make recommendations to the NHL and the NHLPA on Player Health and Safety matters. 4.) Formation of new “NHL/NHLPA Equipment Working Group” to study, promulgate and enforce minimum standards for protective equipment utilized by NHL Players. 5.) Refined and enhanced role for “Player/Club Competition Committee” (CBA Article 22) with greater consultation and interaction with the NHL General Managers’ Committee. 6.) The “NHL/NHLPA Joint Owner-Player Broadcasting/Marketing Committee” (CBA Article 32) will be reconstituted to consult and establish policy on League broadcasting and marketing matters, as well as other League business functions and initiatives. 7. )The NHL/NHLPA International Committee (CBA Article 24) will be charged with jointly identifying, creating, exploiting and managing new international business opportunities involving NHL Players, in which the NHL and NHLPA will participate as 50-50 partners. The NHL/NHLPA International Committee shall also have an advisory role in planning and executing NHL events conducted outside of North America.

– Players provided access to NHL.com platform for their individual Player websites and social media.

– Implementation of a weighted Draft Lottery in which all non-Playoff teams compete for opportunity to choose first overall in the annual Draft.

– Exclusive negotiating rights window for European Draftees extended to one period covering four years, instead of two periods covering two years each.

– Modification to “Four-Recall Rule” to remove limitation on “number of transactions” following the Trade Deadline; replace with limitations on the total number of Recalls on roster at any one time after the Trade Deadline.

– Updated and improved Grievance Arbitration process and procedure.

– Enhanced access to Game Tickets for Visiting Team Players and NHLPA.

– NHLPA representatives to be provided reasonable access to Club facilities and Players at reasonable times.

OK, now that you’re done digesting all that… what does it tell us? The owners have had a big enough change of heart that they want to end the lockout. I can only assume that the owners have tied up both Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, locked them in a closet and gave Bill Daly a directive. I’m probably paraphrasing, but that directive is probably something like “Shut up. Make it happen!”

This proves that Donald Fehr was right. I know a lot of the people out there hold Fehr and Bettman as equal partners in this CBA travesty. Fehr told the players that if they held together, committed themselves to making a deal that worked for most of them, and if they stuck to their guns then the owners would cave. The owners have done just that. It’s just a bloody shame that it took three and a half months to make this happen. The players union quickly called a meeting, and the players asked till Sunday to digest this. Now it’s not a unilateral victory, but any player who was expecting that took one too many pucks to the helmet.

These concessions are a validation for the union. It is also a sign from the hockey gods that we might get to see NHL hockey in the next few days. Getting to see the Bruins one more time would make this a very Happy New Year.