NHL Offers Players 50-50 Split of Hockey Revenue
TORONTO — The ball is now in the players’ court.
The NHL injected life into a stagnant labor negotiation Tuesday, making a surprise offer to the NHL Players’ Association that was highlighted by a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue and a full 82-game season starting Nov. 2.
The NHLPA held a conference call Tuesday evening to discuss the offer with the players’ negotiating committee and the union’s executive board.
“So the process that we’re going to engage in now is to make sure we read it completely and fully, that we understand it … then obviously what we will do is discuss it internally with our own negotiating committee and executive board and then get back together with the NHL.”
Fehr didn’t say exactly when the union would invite the NHL back to bargaining table with a reaction to the offer, acknowledging it would be “sooner rather than later.” A source says the tentative plan is for both sides to speak by phone Wednesday, with the NHLPA seeking clarification on number of points, and then for the two sides to meet again Thursday.
The key question players will have is just how the 50-50 split, down from the 57 percent earned by the players in the expired collective bargaining agreement, will affect their current signed contracts. That has been a key issue in these negotiations — players not wanting to give up much, if any, of current signed salaries via escrow payments in any new CBA.
A source told ESPN.com that there is a mechanism in place in the league’s latest offer to defer payments based on future growth — in other words, somewhat mitigating the players’ financial pain in the first few years.
The offer also will allow teams to go over the salary cap in Year 1 of the deal — a maximum of up to $70 million — as part of the transition rules, according to the source.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the offer Tuesday at the NHLPA’s head office in Toronto, where the league and the players’ union discussed core economic issues rather than continuing to focus on secondary issues.
“We made a proposal, an offer, really that is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs,” Bettman said. “This offer that we made obviously was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season.
“So we have about nine or 10 days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.”
Fehr said that the offer is “at least six years in length.”
The NHL has backed down from earlier proposals for some systemic changes to player contracts, league sources told ESPN.com. Tuesday’s offer also reopened the possibility of salary arbitration and called for unrestricted free agents to have at least eight years’ service time (or be 28 years old), according to the sources.
The league maintained its stance on long-term contracts, wanting to cap deals at five years in length, sources told ESPN.com. The league’s revenue-sharing offer calls for about $200 million, up from about $150 million in the last CBA, the sources said.
The offer also calls for entry-level contracts to be two years in length, as opposed to the stipulated three years in the expired CBA, according to sources.
The NHL’s last offer on Sept. 13 called for the players to receive 49 percent of hockey-related revenue in Year 1, followed by 48 percent in Year 2 and then 47 for the remainder of the six-year deal.
The union’s last offer on Sept. 13, based on 7.1 percent revenue growth, called for the players’ share to be 54.3 percent in Year 1 and end at 52.3 percent in Year 5.
Bettman said that in order to pull off the logistics of the schedule, each team would have one additional game every five weeks in order to get a full season in.
All teams would also hold a makeshift training camp, lasting approximately one week. Veteran players who signed contracts overseas would need to scramble back to their team headquarters, as will the younger players who are working in the minor leagues, like the AHL, this month.
Multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com that all clubs were asked to submit additional dates of arena availability to help put together a condensed or revised schedule. As the league scrambles to put together a full schedule, one source told ESPNNewYork.com that the All-Star Game could even be in jeopardy so regular-season games could be played that week.
The NHL locked out its players on Sept. 15, and the regular season was scheduled to begin on Oct. 11. A Nov. 2 start date would extend the season well into June, but would preserve some of the marquee events, such as the Jan. 1 Winter Classic in Michigan.
This is the third lockout under Bettman’s watch, but unlike the previous two, dialogue has remained steady. The two sides last met last week in New York.
The lockout, which already has wiped out the entire preseason, turned a month old Monday, the same day NHL players would have received their first league paychecks of the season — had there been hockey.
ESPNNewYork.com’s Katie Strang and The Associated Press contributed to this report.