Jan 29, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CANADA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman greets fans and VIPs before the 2012 All Star game at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE

Did Gary Bettman Flinch? Or Just Rollback?


The first offer from the NHL was deemed as ludicrous, shameful and was viewed as a slap in the face towards the players.  Obviously in any “haggling” situation you never want your first offer to be your bottom line, so you start at a point where you feel you still have some “wiggle” room.  After the initial shock of the opening offer had subsided, combined with the NHLPA’s counter offer, it seems as maybe Bettman et all, have come to their senses.  Slightly.  Maybe.  Or not.

The major issues heading into this weeks discussions have been on revenue sharing, as well as a new term for all of our vocabularies, Hockey Related Revenue.  Contract length, and ending salary arbitration as we know it are also up for discussion.  Proposal one took the players revenue share from 57% to 43%.  Contract lengths were limited to five years, and free agency would be unavailable until a player had 10 years of service.  The union focused on different variations of revenue sharing, and keeping the all important salary cap.  As always your first proposal that you slide across the table is never the one that’s settled on, but in this case, the league made it known that they were in no position to continue to give away the farm.

The greed factor is quite obvious.  Each side wants more, each side is willing to give up nothing, and fans are left in the cold.  The latter doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference in the mind of Bettman since he feels that we’ll all be back no matter what.  It’s possible that comment, and the recent media attention seemingly siding with the players, caused the league to come back with a proposal that seems almost human.  I said almost.

The counter offer by the owners on Wednesday calls for a six year CBA.  The revenue share would see that the players get 51.6% this coming season, 50.5% in 2013-2014, and 49.6% in 2014-2015, with the final three years seeing an equal 50/50 split.  Still at large here is determining what the h e double hockey sticks is “hockey related revenue”, or the new acronym HRR?  When both sides are arguing about what that is, it makes you wonder if each side knows what they’re talking about, which could very well lead to more……haggling.  It also needs to be determined what percentage of players salaries could be placed in escrow, which Donald Fehr claims is more in the early years of the agreement, which basically seems like another rollback, but actually finds the players paying back.  As much as this is all about money, Michael Grange from Sportsnet.ca says, it’s also about trust.

The NHLPA seems to want to get or stay as close to the 57% of revenue that they can.  The Bettmans with their apparent twisted view seem to feel that the number is too high, and claim that there should be “no entitlement” to it.  Of course not, the players just work for you, sacrifice their future health for you, and provide a source of entertainment that is second to none.  But yea, they don’t deserve that much of the pie.  No players, no league, no revenue to share.  But that’s neither here nor there right?

In addition to the already mentioned features of the Bettmans new offer, the league would like to rollback the salary cap from the current $70.2 million to $58 million starting this season.  That number would rise two million per season in each of the next to years, and finally hit $71.6 million in 2017-2018.  In the meantime 16, or over half of the NHL teams would be “over” the cap.  As you look at the teams on the list at CapGeek, you’ll be comforted by knowing that the Florida Panthers sit very nicely at $53.7 million, $5 million under, with just enough room to make some additions at the trade deadline.  Also, being at this number means that any threat of trading for Roberto Luongo potentially goes by the wayside, and we can rest assured that the rebound machine with the gapping five hole won’t return to the sunshine state. I hope.

That said, 16 clubs will need to address this situation and fast.  There was talk earlier that if this were to happen, clubs would have the opportunity to throw away one contract (in reality buy it out most likely) in an effort to get themselves below the top number.  Watch out Bobby Lu, Rusty Olesz.  Your time will come immediately after Scott Gomez.

With the two sides hoping to meet today, or at least by the end of the week, there is still time to resolve this mess and open on time.  Funny how as Labor Day approaches with are faced with labor negotiations, but what perfect time to “settle” this dispute and put everyone at ease. It appears that the Bettmans are willing to be rather creative in their design to come to an agreement.  It will depend on what and how the union responds, and where they go from that point.  Will this be settled in a couple more meetings?  Highly unlikely.  It will take at least another week to six months to figure this all out.  As I lean more towards the week portion of that last sentence, it is my sincerest hope that both sides put greed away for now, and realize that they are closer to shaking hands than they were initially.  Tweak the numbers, massage the language, and formulate a plan that pleases everyone, and gives the impression that you each get along.

Maybe I’m in some sort of fantasy land, but I remain cautiously optimistic. I almost feel that the two sides are closer, and this can be settled sooner rather than later.  For the players, we can’t compare them to the average worker in America, or any other country for that matter as far as a pay scale is concerned.  While you and I may have thousands of people who can do our jobs for less, the NHL has only about 700 that can do it as well as they can.  The players know it, and the owners should know it as well.

That said, find the medium……and settle.  And when it’s all said and done, don’t forget my six year contract!

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Donald Fehr Gary Bettman Hockey Related Revenue

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