N.H.L. Is Expected to Present New Proposal to Union
By JOE LAPOINTE
Published: February 2, 2005
For the first time since mid-December, one side in the National
Hockey League lockout is planning to present a formal written
proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement.
But the proposal, which is expected to be given by the league to the
N.H.L. Players' Association today in New York, is unlikely to settle
the dispute, which threatens to scuttle the entire season. The
lockout began Sept. 16.
According to a longtime team owner who has seen an outline of the
proposal, the offer will include the salary cap that the union has
rejected throughout the negotiations. The owner asked not to be
identified because N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman can fine any team
up to $1 million for speaking to the news media about collective
The owner said each team's payroll would be a minimum of $32 million
and a maximum of $42 million, and no player could make more than $6
million a season.
"It's cloaked in a way that will allow them to save face," he said,
referring to a possible union reaction. "But, when you look down
under the covers, it's a hard salary cap."
A person involved in the negotiations said the meeting would include
Bill Daly, executive vice president of the N.H.L.; Ted Saskin, the
senior director of the union; and a lawyer for each side. Bettman and
Bob Goodenow, executive director of the union, were not expected to
The owner, speaking yesterday, said that declaring an impasse
remained an option for the owners; if that were to happen, they would
seek it before the National Labor Relations Board, then implement new
work rules to reopen the business in the fall.
Because such a strategy might prompt a strike, the owner was asked
whether he thought unionized players would cross a picket line to go
back to work next fall. "Oh, yes, like you wouldn't believe," he
said, adding that he thought 80 or 90 percent of current players
would accept the new proposal if allowed to vote on it.
According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, the world
governing body for the sport, 370 N.H.L. players have signed with
European teams this season, although some have left those teams. The
current list shows 334 N.H.L. players active in Europe.
As of today, the N.H.L. has missed 756 games of its 1,230-game
regular-season schedule and the league's All-Star Game. No major
sports league in North America has missed an entire season because of
a labor dispute. The N.H.L. has declined to set a deadline for
cancellation of the season.
If the league seeks to play a truncated season of 28 games, followed
by four full rounds of playoffs, the season could begin as late as
March, meaning that a settlement could even come late this month. A
shorter playoff format could allow a settlement in March.
A salary cap could mean drastic roster revisions for high-salaried
teams like the Rangers, Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit, Dallas and
Colorado. In recent seasons, a few team payrolls have been around $80
million, and the highest individual salaries have been $11 million.
The owner said that little in the new proposal had not already been
discussed with the players in four meetings over the last two weeks.
After the second meeting, Trevor Linden, the Vancouver center who is
president of the players union, told the N.H.L. not to waste its time
presenting a new proposal if it included a salary cap.
The N.H.L. has used the term "cost certainty," a formula that would
link revenue and salaries. Under the new proposal, the league is
expected to propose that players receive about 55 percent of league