CBA Talks Continue


As many of you know, the NHL and the NHL’s Players Association (NHLPA) are currently in talks over a new collective bargaining agreements (CBA). There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that if no deal is struck there won’t be hockey come October. Recall the lost ’04-’05 season when the owners locked the doors on their buildings and the Stanley Cup was never awarded.

The good news? The two sides are talking.

Considering that the NHL, and more importantly hockey fans, went through all this seven years ago, and since then the league has enjoyed unparalleled revenue – what’s the issue?

Bettman vs. Fehr

The NHL is headed up by Commissioner Gary Bettman who speaks for team owners (read: the guys with the chequebooks). The NHL made their initial proposal to the NHLPA on July 13, and the key points being argued include a decreased share of revenue, term limits on contracts and a 22% salary rollback. Players’ share of NHL revenue was at 54% when the last lockout ended, and since then it has grown to 57%. The NHL is looking for something more along the lines of a 50-50 split. After all, the owners are the ones fronting the money.

Headed up by Donald Fehr, the man who led the Major League Baseball Players Association through the lost ’94-’95 season, the NHLPA is expected to make their first counteroffer to the NHL any day now. In Fehr’s own words, they’ll do it “when we’re ready.” Don’t expect the PA to be too enthusiastic about a decrease in profit sharing, shorter terms on contracts, or pay rollbacks.

After both sides have made their initial offers the real fun can start. It’ll be Spy vs. Spy – or in this case Lawyer vs. Lawyer (Bettman is a graduate of NYU’s School of Law, Fehr of the Missouri-Kansas City School of Law). Both men have cancelled a championship before, and though it’s not desirable for either party to do so again, it remains a possibility.

The current CBA ends on September 15, 2012. That’s right when training camps are scheduled to start. If no deal is reached by that point, the owners will be able – and likely willing – to lock the doors to their facilities and leave the players sitting at home – and fans without hockey. It hardly seems fair, but at the end of the day the NHL is a business and the fans are merely customers. We have no say.

It should be noted that it is possible to continue play under the old CBA for a brief period of time if no new deal is reached. Steve Montador, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman and team representative, says that “There’s a lot of time, and if we have to, we can continue playing the old rule if we want. That’s something I think everybody would want, business as usual as far as getting a chance to start on time.”

That’s likely just wishful thinking. But until a lockout is official, Montador’s words offer a glimmer of hope for the ’12-’13 season to start on time.