By Stu Hackel
What will the NHLPA propose to the owners at Tuesday's pivotal CBA negotiations? Whatever it presents -- and you can expect revenue sharing to be a major component of it -- it has some players optimistic their union has the solution to the NHL's economic imbalance.
Take the words of the Lightning's B.J. Crombeen, for example. Traded by the Blues to Tampa Bay last month, Crombeen is part of the union's negotiating committee (and, as The Tampa Times' Damian Cristodero reported, about to graduate from college with a business degree). Crombeen said late last week, “Our proposal is a good proposal. With our proposal we feel we’ll be closer to getting that agreement done.”
And, as we quoted Winnipeg's Ron Hainsey words coming out of last Friday session on this blog Monday, “We’re focused on getting them our proposal on Tuesday and getting a deal done in plenty of time that no time is missed. I think it’s absolutely possible to get something done where no time is missed.”
Whether the owners will share their view, that's the big question.
UPDATE: 4:15 PM - Here's the video of Don Fehr's remarks following Tuesday's meeting and it's worth watching to get an understanding of the NHLPA's proposal:
Video of Gary Bettman's brief remarks, as televised by the CBC, can be veiwed here.
2 PM - The meeting concluded after about two hours, and while all the details of the players' presentation were not immediately available, here is some of what was first reported: David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail tweeted, "Don Fehr: we do believe proposal players made today can produce stable industry. Players indicated they take lower share revenue next 3 yrs." This concession -- a very unexpected one -- is based on some franchises being in trouble. After the third year, Shoalts tweeted, the terms of the current CBA would return. The players proposal makes that fourth year optional, based on the players' preference. Renaud Lavoie of RDS tweeted, that the "NHLPA won't ask the NHL to get rid of the salary cap system. Important step to make sure they'll be hockey at one point this season." There had been speculation by some that the NHLPA would propose a system based on luxury tax and without a cap, as in baseball. John Shannon of SportsNet tweeted the NHLPA proposal includes more comprehensive revenue sharing, which is not surprising.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke with the media very briefly, saying the owners "need time to evaluate" the NHLPA proposal. Michael Grange of SportsNet tweeted, "Bettman said it was clear player proposal had been put together with thought." Chris Johnston of Canadian Press tweeted, "Gary Bettman says PA's proposal is thorough. 'It's clear to me that they didn't put it together in an hour or two.'" He added that Bettman "hopes NHL will be ready to respond to PA's proposal when they meet tomorrow morning." When Fehr spoke, Johnson tweeted that, "Fehr says proposal should 'lead to a new CBA.'"
NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr emerged from Monday's session -- a presentation by the NHL Enterprises head John Collins on how the league runs the business end of their operation -- and said, "What we expect to do tomorrow is put forward an alternative view of what we should do next."
Fehr added the union's proposal won't be "magic," but it will be different from what the league has offered the players. "Some people interpret a counterproposal to be 'All right, this is within the framework of what the other guys said; it just moves some things around.' This is really a bit of a different kind of approach. It's how the players see the world."
How do they see it? Not as the owners do, with their salaries lowered, their free agency years delayed, their salary arbitration gone, the length of their contracts limited to five years, their signing bonuses eliminated and other takebacks the league has proposed. They will almost certainly put forth this "alternative" view in which the owners' problem -- that some teams are struggling financially despite the league's record $3.3 billion revenues -- is addressed by having the NHL clubs share that revenue more equitably.
"But," as David Shoalts writes in Tuesday's Globe and Mail, "this does not mean any serious bargaining on a new agreement to replace the one that expires Sept. 15 is under way. It just means each side has finally stated its philosophy about a solution."
One can only hope the players' optimism won't be in vain.
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