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Is the NHL’s First CBA Proposal a Cause for Concern?

July 18th, 2012 at 12:22 PM
By Matthew Heimlich

It appears the owners have fired the first shot in the NHL's ongoing CBA negotiations and they certainly made an impression with the hockey media with their terms. RDS of Montreal reported five of the NHL's terms put to the players in their first CBA proposals:

1. Reduce players' hockey-related revenues to 46% from 57 %.

2. 10 seasons in the NHL before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.

3. Contracts limited to 5 years.

4. No more salary arbitration.

5. Entry-level contract are 5 years long instead of 3. 

This revelation caused a variety of reactions from the hockey world, from outrage to incredulity, to believing this was a reasonable starting point for negotiations. 

If the league is fully committed to enacting all of these proposals as presented, we won't be seeing NHL hockey for a long time. Each of these changes would dramatically affect the way players are compensated. However, the obvious must be stated in that this is a negotiation, and the people creating these proposals happen to be a consortium of extremely wealthy businessmen. It is unlikely they got to their place in life by NOT vigorously negotiating their positions. Of course their first offer is going to have some teeth to it.

There are good reasons not to take this initial offer too seriously. The entire proposal was only two pages long and overlooked a variety of serious issues, most notably revenue sharing, that need to be addressed. 

Additionally, it should be noted that the offer does not go after certain issues like re-defining "hockey revenue", getting rid of guaranteed contracts, or initiating roll-backs of existing contracts, which would likely be complete non-starters for the players. 

Instead, while the terms might be a bit harsh, the issues brought up in the proposal are exactly what the players and media have been expecting for months prior to the negotiation. There were no surprises in that regard.  

The NHL is a deadline-driven league. The deadline to finalize the CBA is September 15. It is only July 18th right now.  While the two sides may have started negotiations a little late, there is still time to get a deal done before we have to start worrying about not having hockey this fall.

Talks between the NHL and NHLPA resume today.   


Tags: Law, NHL, Sports, Sports Law

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