Lets start with this: The 5050 offer made by the NHL on Tuesday isnt going to be accepted by the players.
Thats not necessarily a bad thing as much as its a negotiating thing. Gary Bettman and the 30 NHL overlords finally got the serious talks rolling on Tuesday when they submitted an offer that would preserve an 82-game schedule that would begin on Nov. 2.
We believe that this was a fair offer for a long-term deal, and it's one that we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on November 2 -- which backing up, entails at least a one-week training camp, said Bettman. So we have about nine or ten 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.
We hope that this effort that we've undertaken today would be successful because we know how difficult this all has been for everybody associated with the game, particularly our fans.
Here are the cold hard details:
The league would institute a week-long training camp followed by an NHL season where missed games would be added to the back end of the schedule.
The offer would also immediately drop the players share of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) to a 5050 split from the current 57 percent level, and would require considerable escrow considerations. It would also require the NHL to pay back the salary lost by players in Year 1 through a series of payment installments over the life of the players contract.
The NHL also backed off slightly on player contract terms. They added another year to make it eight years of service or 28 years old before free agency. The league will keep entry level contracts at three years. It will also keep salary arbitration and would cap all contract terms to a maximum of five years in length.
A few quick thoughts on all of this:
1) The offer clearly puts the pressure on Donald Fehr and the NHLPA as they now have roughly 10 days to work off this proposal and find a way to get something done before both sides give up on an 82-game schedule. Its a lead pipe lock that the players union wont accept this offer fully (they may want to see more revenue sharing, a longer term limit on contracts and the current free agency terms, among other things), but it is something they can work off of to make a workable deal moving forward. Fehr has a reputation as a deal-maker and everybody will now get to see how he makes something happen with a group of players that clearly want to get back to playing hockey. For a league that had its focus group strategy revealed yesterday, its both a clever PR move and a good negotiating strategy that makes the players look greedy if they dont embrace a 5050 split that everybody seemed to see coming.
2) Why did it take this long for a real offer from the league? Its pretty clear the NHL was in no hurry to get things moving with a legit offer, and was happy to miss the first month of the season while waiting to see if Fehr and the NHLPA would crumble in front of them. The league has knocked out one of the slow months of the season that typically kills the non-traditional markets, and will instead sprinkle in games toward the end of the season that will provide good attendance throughout the league. Theoretically keeping an 82-game schedule in a condensed time period could hike Hockey Related Revenue beyond last years numbers. In the end the league is going win this negotiation because this was their plan all along, and only a strong reaction from Fehr and the players could turn this into a lost season proposition. I just dont see that happening at this point.
3) Fehr had told the players during group conference calls and meetings that he didnt have anything he could work off of in negotiations during the previous two months. That led to plenty of wasted time discussing things that didnt really matter in the grand scheme of things. The NHLPA now something Fehr can work off of and almost two weeks to make it happen while the NHL sits and waits. Expect a counter-proposal within a couple of days and some serious discussions leading up through next week as both sides attempt to make something happen. If they can find a middle ground and make an 82-game season possible with a Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend and all of the other fixings that hockey fans have become accustomed to, then nobody is going to remember the hyperbole and heated words leading up to a new CBA once the playoffs roll around.
Things clearly arent a done deal after todays offer from the NHL, and there is legitimacy in those that fear this is some kind of Frank Luntz-crafted maneuver simply to start winning the PR war. But if it also opens the door for a deal to be consummated in the next two weeks by Bettman and Fehr, nobody is really going to care why it happened in the first place.
The fans have spoken loudly and clearly, and they just want the NHL back. That reality isnt a fait accompli, but its one step closer to being one after today.