Friday, December 10, 2004

The Last Offer?

With the unofficial mid-December deadline nearing, the NHL and NHLPA have resumed negotiations in a last ditch effort to save the 2004-2005 NHL season. It would be the first NHL season cancelled if negotiations are unsuccessful. The NHLPA's recent proposal is a promising sign that a new CBA is on the horizon. The offer includes a one-time 24% roll back in player salaries and a luxury tax system whereby payrolls over $45 million trigger a 20 cent tax, over $50 million a 50 cent tax, and over $60 million a 60 cent tax. The NHLPA boasts that their proposal could save the league up to $600 million, with owners saving around $200 million in absorbed salaries. Thursday's meeting came three months after the last day of negotiations, September 9. The meeting ran between 11:23 am and 3:20 pm, with a lunch break at 1:45. Coming short of approval, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has recognized the offer as both "significant" and "serious," in that it showed that the NHLPA was beginning to recognize the league's financial troubles. The offer puts the ball in the league's court, and also gives the NHLPA a healthy shot of PR, after weeks of bad press that the players were the ones responsible for the lockout based on their greed. Players as well as fans were shocked by the generosity of the offer. Says goaltender Martin Brodeur, over in Europe for the Primus Worldstars Tour:
"'It was surprising for everybody. We knew something was coming up but we didn't know exactly how much. So everyone kind of said 'Whoa, that's steep,' but if it gets a deal done, good...The players are doing this in good faith. We're making a statement to the NHL and the people that we want this resolved."
Under the proposal, Brodeur will lose $2 million in rolled-back salary. The sides will meet on Tuesday to discuss the offer, and the NHL is likely to present a counter-offer that includes a clause to link player income and league revenue. The league has also insisted on a salary cap system in the new CBA, but the NHLPA's latest offer and the desperation to save the season might be enough for Bettman to accept the proposal. For a league plagued by bad press and a limited American fan base, it is quite presumptuous and plain suidical for the league to assume that it can keep its foot down for too long. The lockout has lasted 86 days and cancelled over 382 regular-season games, in addition to the 2005 All Star Game.


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