How the NHL can save its season

How the NHL can save its season
September 18, 2012, 9:05 pm
Share This Post

As the NHL lockout continues with no formal negotiations on the horizon, now seems like a good time to refresh ourselves on where the two sides are and where they may be going.

First, a few pertinent facts. The NHL reported a record 3.3 billion in hockey-related revenue last season. Of that revenue, the players received 57 percent in the form of 1.7 billion in player salaries.

In his initial offer to the players, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proposed the players percentage of league revenue decrease from 57 percent to 43 percent. In subsequent proposals, Bettman raised that percentage to 46 percent, then to 49 percent, with the players share gradually decreasing to 47 percent at the end of the six-year agreement.

Why, you may ask, would Bettman start at 43 percent when the players were earning 57 percent of league revenue? Well, meeting in the middle would be 50 percent, right?

(It is worth noting here that NFL players receive 47 percent of the leagues revenue, rising to 48.5 percent at the end of their 10-year agreement; and NBA players have a 49 percent share, rising to 51 percent in the final year of their 10-year agreement).

Not surprisingly, Bettmans three proposals were flatly rejected by players union chief Donald Fehr, who crafted a counter-proposal based on an annual revenue increase of 7.1 percent.

Under Fehrs proposal, the players would agree to a 2 percent increase in salaries in Year 1, a 4 percent increase in Year 2 and a 6 percent increase in Year 3. In other words, the players would be giving up roughly 9 percent in projected revenue over the first three years of their proposal.

Bettman flatly rejected the players proposal and issued a lockout on Saturday that threatens to wipe out the entire 2012-13 season.

We feel were bargaining, Capitals veteran forward Jason Chimera said Tuesday.
Weve put up some really good offers that make us a stable league.

We dont want to be in this position five years down the road, being locked out again. We want to keep a healthy league for a long time. Our proposals did that and they kind of shunned them. Its pretty unfortunate. Weve put some good proposals together. If they really looked at them in full I think theyd realize that.

Over the past several days, a number of NHL players have talked about getting a raw deal in the last CBA, which directly tied league revenues to salaries. But according to one player agent, the average amount of player givebacks in the past seven years amounted to about 5 percent while salaries rose close to 80 million.

We gave up a lot last time and the CBA turned out pretty good, Chimera said. I dont think we need to fix what happened in the past. If the revenue grows to over 7 percent, it gets up to over a billion dollars in savings to the owners, which is not just a little dollar in their pocket. Thats a lot of money. Were willing to work with them.

In theory, yes. But if the players hope to salvage even an abbreviated 2012-13 NHL season, theyll need to start speaking the same language as the owners and try meeting them halfway.

For that to happen, they would need to scrap their 7.1 percent model and accept the fact that there will be a gradual rollback of salaries that brings the league closer to its desired 50-50 split.

A short-term compromise would be a three-year agreement in which the players share of league revenue drops to 54 percent this season; 53 percent the following season and 52 percent in Year 3.

At least then the two sides would be speaking the same language and a season would be saved.