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NHL makes 50-50 offer to players, targets possible Nov. 2 start

League tries to spur negotiations amid lockout with deal that would limit contracts to five years and postpone eligibility for unrestricted free agency. Players want clarifications before responding.

October 16, 2012|By Helene Elliott
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters following collective bargaining talks in Toronto on Tuesday.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters following collective… (Chris Young / Associated…)

The NHL on Tuesday made a new proposal to the players’ association that should provide a basis for accelerated negotiations and is centered on a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenues, contingent on a full, 82-game schedule being played starting Nov. 2.

The proposal also would make players eligible for free agency after eight years’ service. According to John Shannon of Canada’s Sportsnet, salary arbitration would remain in place -- the NHL’s first proposals would have eliminated it -- revenue sharing would increase to about $200 million, and players’ contracts would be limited to a maximum of five years. The length of the proposed labor deal is six years.

There would be no immediate rollbacks -- a big point made by the union -- but the salaries of players who are on one-way contracts and are assigned to the American Hockey League would count against the salary cap.

The sides had been stalled since the NHL imposed a lockout on Sept. 15. The NHL’s first offer would have cut players’ share of hockey-related revenues from 57% last season to 43%. It later increased that share to 47%. The union had adjusted its proposal to levels that would have slowed the rate of increases but would have kept players’ share of hockey-related revenues at no lower than 52%.

“A lot of you know we don't negotiate publicly, and I'm not going to break that habit because I don't think it's constructive,” Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Toronto after presenting the offer at the union's  office.

“The fact of the matter is, we offered a 50-50 share of hockey-related revenues, and we believe we addressed the concern that players have about what happens to their salaries as a result in this year of reducing the percentage from 57 to 50%.

“Beyond that, I don't want to get into the substance other than to say we believe that this was a fair offer for a long-term deal, and it's one that we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on Nov. 2, which, backing up, entails at least a one-week training camp. So we have about nine or 10 days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.

“We hope that this effort that we've undertaken today would be successful because we know how difficult this all has been for everybody associated with the game, particularly our fans.”

Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, said the union will study the league’s proposal in full before commenting in detail. A conference call among members of the union’s board is scheduled for later Tuesday.

“Gary indicated to me and I assume he indicated to you that they would like to get a full 82-game season in,” Fehr said during a news conference in Toronto. “We, of course, share that view and would like to get a full 82-game season in.

“And, so, what our hope is that after we review this that there will be a feeling on the players' side that this is a proposal from which we can negotiate and try to reach a conclusion. But, we are not in a position to make any comments about it beyond that at this point.”


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