The long awaited showdown has finally arrived. Media people are poised to cover the story, to gather the quotes and soundbites. The big proposal has finally been delivered and now the fun and speculation begin. No, I am not talking about the Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. While millions will no doubt be watching the debate this evening, hockey fans got their treat a bit early as the league surprised many by tossing out a 50/50 Hockey Related Revenues (HRR) proposal to the NHLPA earlier today. I kind of doubt we’ll hear a debate question this evening on it; where both candidates will attempt to use that proposal to bash the other where Obama will accuse Romney of locking out workers and preventing job growth and Romney will talk about a lenient revenue ratio that has players out of touch with the reality of the costs of owning a team and putting the league’s long-term financial health at risk. Just kidding, but wouldn’t it be funny to hear either candidate to try to debate a hockey topic? It’d probably be pretty brutal. You’d probably have a better chance of hearing them share the specifics of a tax plan before you’d hear them argue for why there needs to be or doesn’t need to be an adjustment of the current Hockey Related Revenues. But I digress…
So what should fans make of this latest proposal from the league? My first thought when I saw it show up in the news scrollbar of my E-mail was “Great, now it might have been worth it picking two fantasy hockey teams this fall.” All kidding aside, it is not an end to the lockout but its a serious shift from where the league ownership has been previously in their first proposal. So how should we fans read into this?
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I think as I watched a video of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on NHL.com, was that he looked tired and a little defeated. It almost looked as though he was biting his tongue as he announced the league’s latest proposal for the NHLPA to consider and as reporters tried to get him to reveal specifics of that offer you could sense there was a hint of frustration over the concessions that were made. While we may never fully understand why the league ownership decided to take a step back from its hard line position, the granite like stoicism that was so present back in 2004 certainly is not here now in 2012.
Without the specifics its is nearly impossible to see how NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and the members of the union will take this proposal. However, the fact we even have a significant shift has to be seen as a positive even if its just for the sake that it should serve to get the two sides to a place where it can lead to meaningful discussions. Most NHL players refrained from chiming in on the offer as they wait to see all the details, but there was one tweet that caught my eye. The ever opinionated former NHL’er Jeremy Roenick was pretty direct with this tweet, “Ok it’s now a 50/50 offer. Players should accept it now and play their best hockey and drive revenue to 4 billion and all is good in NHL.” From Wild prospect Jason Zucker who tweeted, “I love the sounds of this new NHL proposal! Hopefully we can get a deal worked out soon and get the NHL season under way!
#fingerscrossed” Sure, he’s not an NHL’er yet so he doesn’t have the same level of investment as a Zach Parise or a Ryan Suter do now that they inked identical 13-year, $98 million dollar deals but I guess its good to see at least someone who is far closer to being a player see this as a good thing.
Some (but not all) has been leaked out. A 5-year maximum contract limit, which would likely grandfather the long term deals to Parise and Suter like I previously mentioned. Another idea many experts believe might be apart of the deal is a gradual implementation to bring the revenue ratio from 57% Players, 43% Owners that it currently is for HRR, and after a few years of bridging that gap before finally resting at 50/50.
The league did offer a qualifier for the NHLPA to get a deal done. As if to put a little fire underneath the NHLPA, the league said that they would give them 9 days to get a deal done so the league can start playing again on November 2nd. It was at this date Bettman offered that the league could still fit in an 82-game schedule, albeit compressed by adding an average of one game more every 5 weeks than the original one. I think this is another place where the fans can read more into what the league is saying. There was also a finality to Bettman’s tone as he spoke about this. A sort of, you better make a counter offer soon or else. At least that’s the vibe I got.
So should fans be excited? A little.
So one way or another, we should see a conclusion to this prolonged labor disagreement. Whether it be a CBA agreed to or a permanent lockout that squanders another season, we’ll at least probably end some of this uncertainty. Could they try to continue to negotiate if a deal can’t get done? Perhaps, but I think it becomes less and less likely. I could be wrong, besides I think at one point last spring I speculated another lockout wouldn’t happen this time around. Unfortunately the NHL proved me wrong. But if a deal gets done in the next 9 days, I’ll probably forgive them for doing that!