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NHL fires first salvo in CBA talks

NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr listens

NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr listens as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman holds a news conference before Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals. (June 1, 2011) Credit: AP

Gentlemen, start your negotiating engines.

After a handful of “cordial” meetings between the NHL and NHLPA, the league fired the opening salvo in the battle over the next collective bargaining agreement on Friday in Toronto. The NHL negotiators laid out its first proposal, a wide-ranging wish-list that envisions a dramatic remake of the existing CBA, one that guarantees pushback from the union.

The CBA expires on Sept. 15, and the two sides are expected to meet again in New York, Wednesday through Friday in the hopes of avoiding a delayed start to the season, or a lockout that wiped out the 2004-5 campaign.

Based on reports from RDS and the New York Post, the NHL proposed reducing players’ share of hockey-related revenues from 57 to 46 percent.

HRR are defined as “revenue derived or earned from, relating to or arising directly or indirectly out of the playing of NHL hockey games or NHL-related events in which current NHL Players participate or in which current NHL Players’ names and likenesses are used, by each such Club or the League, or attributable directly to the Club or the League from a Club Affiliated Entity or League Affiliated Entity,” according to the 2005 CBA. Hockey-related revenues are comprised of, among other things, gate receipts, television and radio broadcast deals, concessions, and arena sponsorships.

The other issues are important, but this is the crux of the matter. The owners, who reported $3.3 billion in revenues, spent hundreds of millions in free agency this month, and have generally raised ticket prices in many markets, inlcuding at Madison Square Garden for Rangers games, want 54 percent of the HRR, an eight percent increase.

As for the other elements, only three contracts of five years per team, with the same salary for each season, would be allowed per team; salary arbitration would be eliminated, an entry level contract increases from three to five years, signing bonuses would be eliminated and free agent and cap rules would be altered. For example, according to the Post, the cap ceiling would be $4 million above midpoint and the floor $8 million below.

Last year’s midpoint was $56.3 million and the ceiling was $64.3; the temporary projection for 2102-13 was for $70.2 million with an adjusted mid-point of $62.2 million and floor of $54.2. The ceiling, as initially proposed, would be $66.2 million, just about $2 million higher than last season.With the blueprint on the table, it’s now Donald Fehr’s turn to move ahead with the process that will likely consume the rest of the summer.

New York Sports