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Not exactly surprising news: NHL tells NHLPA it won’t renew the CBA

Per USA Today’s Kevin Allen...

The NHL Players Association has notified its players Wednesday through a memo that the NHL has sent written notice it plans to “terminate and/or modify” the collective bargaining agreement when it expires on Sept. 15. This is a formality because it was well understood by the NHLPA that the league wanted to negotiate a new deal.

Under CBA Article 3.1(a), according to the memo, had no notice been given by either party, the existing CBA would have remained in place for another year.

In the memo, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told players they would be notified when negotiating sessions are to begin. He said all players are encouraged to attend as many of the bargaining sessions as possible.

“There is no better way to send a message to the league that players are engaged in the process of bargaining for a fair new contract,” Fehr said in the memo.

And the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell:

The earliest hope to avoid a lockout next fall was dashed when the NHL filed a notice of termination of its collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players’ Association on Wednesday morning, THN.com has learned.

Article III of the agreement provided a slim hope a lockout could be avoided, as it was when the NHLPA elected to extend the agreement by one year. The article states that the CBA, “shall remain in effect from year to year (after it expires) unless and until either party shall deliver to the other a written notice of termination of the agreement at least 120 days prior to Sept. 15, 2011 or not less than a like period in any year thereafter.”

Which means that if neither side had filed a termination notice before Friday, the agreement automatically would have rolled over for another year. But that will not be the case since the league has already notified the players it intends to terminate the agreement. The players had the same option, but there was little chance the NHLPA would have filed to terminate an agreement that has been largely favorable to them.
As far as CBA talks are concerned, the sides have not held any formal negotiations and are unlikely to do so until after the NHL draft. The NHLPA has received the financial information it has requested from the league and is currently reviewing it to prepare for bargaining.

Update: Take this panicking-via-Twitter-tea-leaf-reading from the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey for what you will:

We got an inkling of what the players don’t want from Steve Fehr, the NHLPA special counsel. He was filling in for his brother during the conference of the Sports Lawyers Association in San Diego and he appeared to draw a line in the sand when he told Sports Business Daily’s Liz McMullen that the players would fight any attempt to cut their share of hockey related revenue.

Most of the speculation has centred around a rollback of the players’ share that is currently 56 to 57 per cent. National Football League players accepted 48 to 49.5 per cent of revenues after a lockout last summer, while NBA players lost nearly half a season before agreeing to a 50-50 split.

“I think it is fair to say that if the approach is what many are predicting, that the owners come in and say we have to shave five, 10, 15, 25, 30 - pick a number - points off the percentage of revenues in the cap that players receive, there may be a lot of players who say: ‘Wait a minute, we already gave at the office,’ ” Fehr said.

“We made massive concessions last time that were designed to fix your so-called problems,” he continued. “If it has not fixed your so-called problems, we need to have a long, hard discussion about what those problems are and what we should do about it.”

Fehr said there were two possible routes for the negotiations to take. He noted that the NBA and NFL both experienced lockouts after the leagues asked the players for economic concessions, but Major League Baseball did not seek major concessions and reached a deal without a work stoppage.

“If there is more of an approach that was taken by MLB, it may be a quick and easy negotiation,” Fehr said of the coming talks. “That is actually what Gary Bettman has said, that he expects a quick and easy negotiation and he probably knows more about it than I do, so perhaps that is the direction it will take.”

The article Hickey quotes is from SportsBusiness Daily, but her name is Liz Mullen…and you can read a non-subscriber-only version of her article here.


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PuckStopsHere's avatar

The NHL essentially mandated this CBA in 2005 as they broke the union.  Now its not even good enough for renewing.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/16/12 at 07:39 PM ET

RWBill's avatar


One error was fixing the spread between high edge of the cap and bottom of the cap to real numbers instead of percentages.  The spread was fixed at something like $15M.  It should have been fixed as a percentage of the maximum cap, not $15M from top to bottom.  This would have provided a much lower floor by now to those teams that did not want to pay that much.  This has artificially raised player salaries too.

The GMs are pretty screwed going into July 1 UFA not knowing what the rules will be like 10 weeks later.

What a F’d up way to run a railroad.

Posted by RWBill on 05/16/12 at 08:31 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

RWBill, I made that exact suggestion regarding the difference between the floor and ceiling being a percentage of the ceiling, on Bettman’s show, NHL Hour. He basically wrote it off and said they’ve thought of it but he thinks $16M makes sense. I don’t get how hard it is to see that that doesn’t make sense as the cap changes…

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 05/16/12 at 10:14 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Having the “floor” so close to the ceiling, especially for a CBA whose salary cap is determined by averaging league-wide revenues, was Bettman and Daly’s idea. The NHL figured that it would enforce parity by more or less ensuring that nobody under-spent their opponents by a massive margin, but as we’ve seen, it does much less for parity than it does for forcing the half of franchises that make under the league-wide average of revenues to spend into the red (though, of course, ticket prices are have very little correlation to player salaries—they are determined by plain old supply and demand) to reach the floor….

Which yields the biggest markets cutting revenue-sharing checks and the players paying escrow to cover some of the “weaker sisters’” expenditures (there’s more to escrow than that, obviously, because escrow encourages teams to spend over the players’ share in salaries because players have to pay it right back to the league, but still), and in all honesty, nobody seems to be happy with that arrangement other than the NHL itself.

I think that the smaller-market teams, big markets and NHLPA would all be fine with the “payroll range” being expanded to $20 million, $25 million or even more than that, because the PA’s losses in potentially guaranteed earnings would be offset by little to no escrow, but Gary likes it the way it is.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/16/12 at 10:30 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I love the Fehr is encouraging all players to get involved. That’s a VERY healthy sign.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/17/12 at 12:19 AM ET


No truth to the rumour that Dale Talon was in charge of faxing the memo to the NHLPA.

Posted by Callmejerry on 05/17/12 at 03:26 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.