On Tuesday Donald Fehr and 23 players making up the NHLPA presented their counteroffer to the leagues original offer. The NHL presented their initial offer one month ago which included: a reduction of the players revenue shares (down to 43&%), new policy that players must spend 10 years in the league before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency, limiting the length of contracts to five years and extending the length of entry-level contracts to five years.
The initial response from those in the hockey world was that the two sides were far apart. The question became how far apart? On Tuesday we got our answer. To the surprise of many the two sides no longer seem as far apart as once feared. Representatives of the league even said "It wasn't as bad as they feared it would be".
The reason there is a sense of optimism around the league is because Fehr and the NHLPA played it smart. The players showed the fans that they want to play hockey and aren't entirely focused on the money. They knew exactly what the league would object too (causing a delay in the start of the season) and went in with a game plan, now the ball is in the leagues corner.
“We do believe the proposal the players made today, once implemented, can produce a healthy and long lasting labour relationship and eliminate the labour strife that has plagued the league for the past two decades.” ~Fehr
While the exact details of the NHLPA's "alternate system" weren't released to the public as Bettman wanted more time to read it over, the major point was the players are willing to accept less money if it means playing hockey. A point that would make the league and Bettman very happy. In the leagues initial offer they proposed lowering the players share of league revenue, something the players were originally not too happy about. But as the meeting finished today the players were singing a different tune.
"Under our alternative proposal, essentially the players have indicated that they will take a reduced share of HRR, going forward, for the next three seasons," Fehr said. "That would be based on a reduction from what would be produced otherwise under the current formula with the league growing at traditional rates that it has for the last seven years. ~Fehr
While the players version of taking less money is the opposite of what the league envisioned it is still intriguing. What the NHLPA has said is for the next 3 years (possibly 4) the players will take a smaller cut of the action. Depending on the revenue going forward the players would be forfeiting between $400-$800 million dollars. The best part of the proposal is the players even had an idea on where the extra money should go, and no it wasn't to Bettman.
"In essence, when you boil it all down, what we're suggesting is that the players partner with the financially stronger owners to help stabilize the industry and assist the less financially-strong ownership groups." ~Fehr
One of the major issues with owners (especially those of smaller market teams) was the fact they weren't getting a big enough cut compared to some of the larger market teams. That issue appears to be fixed.
Things that were not brought up in the players "alternate system"
- Removing a hard salary cap
- The length and structure of players contracts
While the fans and the NHL had to wait one month, yes one month, for Fehr and company to make their first offer to the league it appears to have been well worth the wait. Despite Bettman's deadline of September 15th there is optimism in the air thanks to the players and their efforts to salvage a season. They played it smart pinning small market owners against large market owners and winning the fans vote by stating they are willing to accept less cash. It now lies solely on Gary Bettman's shoulders. Exactly one month to make a deal!
What do you think, will we see hockey start on time?