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In discussing ‘nuts and bolts’ issues, brass tacks of NHL’s proposal to NHLPA yield gloomy forecast

After two and-a-half weeks since the NHL dropped a bomb on the NHLPA in the form of a draconian first CBA proposal, the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston reports that the NHL has finally hashed out its proposal to the PA today in Toronto, with the hopes of receiving a counter-proposal soon:

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league tabled the remaining elements of its opening contract offer to the NHL Players’ Association on Wednesday. It was an expansion on the opening proposal the league delivered July 13, which included a decreased share of hockey-related revenue, term limits on contracts and a 22 per cent salary rollback.

“We left some open issues that we have to get back to but the overwhelming scope of our proposals are on the table,” Bettman said. “We walked the players and the Players’ Association through those so-called ‘nuts and bolts’ proposals and the process continues.”

Bettman cited training camp and the grievance procedure as examples of ‘nuts and bolts’ proposals. [Donald] Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, said Wednesday’s talks covered a wide spectrum.

“Essentially we got a list of, in some cases proposals, and a lot of other cases ideas and talking points from the owners about various portions of the agreement,” he said. “What they’ve called their principle proposal was the salary cap reduction and a couple of matters attendant to that. This consisted of a lot of (what) we should incorporate into the agreement, understandings we’ve reached over the course of the last agreement, we want to change this, this further explains what we told you last week about this subject, here’s a topic we want to talk to you about.”

All of which, Fehr said, is part of the negotiating process.

“By the way, I’m not criticizing,” he added. “It’s an accepted way of bargaining to say, ‘Rather than say this is what we want, here is something we want to talk to you about,’ and see if we can come to an understanding. That’s what we’ve done with a wide variety of areas and they’ve had that stuff from us for 10 days to two weeks.”

Fehr said some of the issues touched upon Wednesday included training camps, injuries, roster moves and medical care. While the union must continue with its analysis of these issues, he didn’t think the two sides were very far apart on them.

“On a lot of things I don’t think there’ll be a big difference in opinion.” he said. “On some other things we have to analyze what the actual affect of moving from A to B would mean for the individual players, our staff and agents that would be working on those matters. I don’t think that’s a terribly long process but it’s not a five-minute turnaround either.”

In theory, anyway, this should pave the way for more substantive CBA discussion all the way around, as Bettman told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen...

“There are lots of things in a multi-hundred page Collective Bargaining Agreement that go beyond the principal economic proposals,” Commissioner Bettman said.

Fehr said the players are now in the process of analyzing the most recent submission. He said he does not think the League and the PA are far apart on many of the issues introduced Wednesday.

“On a lot of things I don’t think there will be a big difference in opinion, Fehr said. “On some other things we have to analyze what the actual effect of moving from A to B would mean for the individual players and our staff and agents that would be working on those matters. I don’t think that’s a terribly long process, but it’s not a five-minute turnaround either.”

The NHL was represented in the meeting Wednesday by Commissioner Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Senior Executive V.P. of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, Senior V.P. of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, Hockey Operations Managers Rob Blake and Stephane Quintal, Minnesota owner Craig Leipold, Boston owner Jeremy Jacobs, Toronto President and GM Brian Burke, Carolina President and GM Jim Rutherford, and legal counsel.

The NHLPA was represented by Fehr, General Counsel Don Zavelo, Special Counsel Steve Fehr, Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, additional legal counsel, and four players: John Tavares (New York Islanders), Brad Boyes (New York Islanders), Sam Gagner (Edmonton Oilers) and Daniel Winnik (Anaheim Ducks).

The sides plan to wrap up the three consecutive days of negotiations Thursday, and Fehr said that session may involve smaller committees to “really begin to discuss the specific issues in a back-and-forth fashion and begin to see what resolutions can be reached.”

Additional negotiating sessions are scheduled for next week in New York.

“Our goal is to move this process along as quickly as possible,” Commissioner Bettman said.

According to the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts, however, the brass tacks of the NHL’s initial CBA offer, in stark economic terms, are chilling—and don’t bode well for negotiations going forward:

If the owners’ demands to re-define the hockey-related revenue that makes up the economic pie they share with the players were implemented a year ago, the NHL’s 740 players would have seen their total compensation reduced by $450-million (all currency U.S.). Last season, the players received 57 per cent of the league’s $3.3-billion in revenue, trumpeted by management as a record for the seventh year in succession since the 2004-05 lockout, which worked out to $1.88-billion.

However, the effect of the owners’ demands would have taken the players’ amount to less than it was in 2004 when the lockout began. Since then, however, NHL revenue has grown by more than $1-billion.

What was interesting to the NHLPA’s analysts was the owner’s first proposal would have reduced player salaries by 24 per cent, the same percentage the players voluntarily took after the lockout seven years ago. This would be accomplished by not only reducing the players’ share of hockey-related revenue (HRR) from 57 per cent to 46 but also excluding some revenue from HRR to shrink the source of the players’ compensation.

The overall effect, the analysts discovered, would actually shrink the players’ share of the revenue to 43 per cent from 57 once the effect of reducing the HRR was added. Under those numbers, for example, the salary cap last season would have been $50.8-million, rather than $64.3-million, and the floor or minimum payroll would have been $38.8-million rather than $48.3-million.

To the individual player, this meant if he made a salary of $1-million, it would have been cut back to $760,000.

The union is still working on its counter-proposal to the NHL owners’ opening demands. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said this could come in the next two weeks but did not want to commit to a date.

In the meantime, the players and the owners will finish off this week’s negotiations by breaking into smaller groups Thursday to discuss the owners’ proposals on the lesser issues. These are the housekeeping issues that make up the bulk of a collective agreement, or what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called “the nuts and bolts proposals.” They concerned things like grievances, training camp procedures, medical care, methods of communication, roster moves and injuries.

After that, well…As the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran notes, agreeing on the smaller stuff is easy when the bigger issues remain diametrically opposed, with the NHL essentially telling the PA that the thrust of its new CBA involves resetting the marketplace and attempting to stabilize franchises not based on revenue-sharing or addressing the fact that Gary Bettman’s poorer business decisions are dragging the league down, but instead on grabbing as much money from the players as possible:

As for the hardcore economic issues which are setting the league up for a second lockout in eight years, Fehr said the players are awaiting further information from the league to better understand the league’s position that clawbacks are necessary.

“We requested a fair amount of background information with respect to those proposals,” said Fehr. “They’ve indicated they’re compiling that but we don’t have it yet. Hopefully that will be forthcoming in the future.”

The owners’ principal economic offer included:

•  Slashing players’ hockey-related revenues to 46 per cent from 57 per cent

•  Forcing players to wait 10 years before becoming unrestricted free agents

•  Contracts limited to five years

Bettman said the league’s goal is to have a deal in place by Sept. 15, the date the current CBA expires.

“We’re focused on making a deal on a timely basis,” said Bettman. “I’m not going to speculate what would happen if we are not in a position to make a deal by then. Our goal is to move this process along as quickly as possible.”

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tuxedoTshirt's avatar

the overwhelming scope of our proposals are on the table,

A way with words.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 07/25/12 at 09:28 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

1) blah blah blah
3) History!
4) blah blah blah

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/25/12 at 09:41 PM ET

Alan's avatar

Bettman said the league’s goal is to have a deal in place by Sept. 15, the date the current CBA expires.

Then the league better be ready to concede basically everything it’s proposed, otherwise it’s probably not going to happen. Fehr will eat this little man with a Napoleon complex alive.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 07/25/12 at 11:02 PM ET

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