Haggerty: A few steps to getting the NHL season on track

Haggerty: A few steps to getting the NHL season on track
September 26, 2012, 2:20 pm
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It appears there might be some progress after all.

The NHL and NHLPA met informally on Monday night during an NHL Alumni Dinner to discuss Hockey Related Revenue and escrow payments from last years books, and now theyve scheduled talks for the end of this week in New York City.

That will break the nearly two week silence between the two sides as the first 61 NHL preseason games were cancelled, and it would appear likely the rest of the exhibition season will be axed by the time talks resume on Friday.

The discussion at weeks end will be about non-core economic matters, and perhaps tie together some of the other loose ends before both sides dive headlong into divvying up the Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) pie.

Its good to know that Enjoy the Silence wont be the preferred soundtrack behind CBA negotiations over the new two weeks leading up to the NHL season opener on Oct. 11. Its expected both sides are going to give it a solid push to avoid wiping out the first few months of the regular season. Here are a few things to watch for as the two sides work things out:

The players arent going to sign off on any potential salary rollbacks, and wont settle for less than the 1.87 billion in player salaries they earned during the 2011-12 season. But the players should have some give on potential escrow to start the new collective bargaining agreement, and be willing to tie a little of their money up in guaranteed growthprofits from the league. If the NHL were to agree to slight cost-of-living raises of 2-3 percent each year while growth continues at 6-7 percent then the players percentage of HRR would eventually drop to 50 percent over the course of a lengthy new CBA starting with a 53 percent slice of the pie this season. If the league blows up into a revenue monster over the next 5-10 years then the NHL owners could make plenty of dough in this kind of arrangement.

The player might have to compromise to four-year entry level contracts for rookies that could scale back some of the pricey second deals that have been handed out to Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin among others. The mandatory five-year entry level proposed by the NHL in their first offer was designed to control the cost of the games best young players for teams that are hard-pressed to hold onto them when they become 6 million assets beginning in Year Four. This is also an issue the NHLPA might gain some measure of support around from players that are likely more worried about present paychecks than the rights of future rookies.

A source indicated to CSNNE.com that the NHLPA is looking to make substantial alterations to the disciplinary system set up by the NHL. Aside from NHLPA representation in a more clearly defined appeal process, the players association is angling toward allowing the NHL to fine players much more than 2,500 for on-ice infractions. Right now its the maximum a player can be fined, but in many instances a heftier fine could arguably take the place of a one-game suspension for borderline hits. If a player like Chara were suspended for a borderline offense, for instance, he would miss 73,000 in game checks for each game he was suspended. A fine for 25,000, for example, would send the proper message to a player without causing them to miss a game and a hefty game check along with it. Those kinds of small details along with NHL player participation in the Winter Olympics and heightened player safety rules are minor details both sides want ironed out in a new agreement.

Cap contract length at 6-8 years and kill all of the lifetime deals that are putting teams into salary cap jail. There was no need to sign New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro to a 15-year, 67.5 million contract cleared by Charles Wang and Mike Milbury, and outlawing lifetime contracts for NHL players would save GMs and owners from themselves something theyve proven that they need. This is a no-brainer that both the NHL and the NHLPA should find common ground on this very quickly.

A greater degree of revenue sharing is something that the NHLPA has been pushing for, and is something that is badly needed to prop up markets like Phoenix, Florida and the New York Islanders that continually lose money year after year. Markets like Toronto, Montreal and New York along with Boston and Chicago are doing as well as theyve ever done, and should be willing to share the leagues burden along with the players in a true partnership.

The long term goal should be a 5050 split of revenue between the players and the NHL owners, and missing hockey games so one side can claim victory by getting a bigger piece of the pie will end hurting the league in the end. The NHL would be smart to walk through the door thats been opened by the folly of using NFL replacement refs. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is now flying under the radar ever so slightly as his NFL namesake is getting hammered from all sides, and he can look like the fair-haired hero if a deal gets done to save the bulk of the regular season.

Everybody agrees that the business of the NHL is going far too well to shutter its doors for the entire season, and it would be a shame to wipe out 247 and the Winter Classic given their enormous success. Its time for Bettman, Bill Daly, Donald Fehr and Steve Fehr to walk into a room and refuse to leave until a deal has been signed, sealed and delivered to save the season.