Proposal rejected, but sides to meet
BY ALAN HAHN
February 3, 2005
The NHL Players' Association rejected a proposal made by the league
yesterday, but then invited the league back to the negotiating table
today in New York. With the chance for a season this winter fading,
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Bob
Goodenow will be present after the two leaders sat out each of the
previous five meetings over the past two weeks.
"I think we all know we're right down to the end here and Bob and
Gary really have to be in the room to do the deal that needs to be
done," NHL chief counsel Bill Daly said.
The NHL's offer, made at a bargaining session in Newark, starts with
the union's previously offered 24-percent salary rollback and
includes a salary cap of $40 million with a minimum team payroll of
$29.8 million. The league raised its percentage of revenue dedicated
to salaries to 55 percent. There was also a vague, but interesting 50-
50 profit-sharing plan offer that Daly labeled as "the cornerstone of
a long-term partnership with our players."
NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said the proposal was "not the basis
for an agreement," and there was no reason to present it to the
players for a vote. But there might be a faction of players who
believe it could be a start.
"There are some things in that proposal that are encouraging,"
Islanders captain Michael Peca said from his offseason home in the
Buffalo suburbs. "Obviously, them talking and getting back [today] is
encouraging. Throughout this whole process, I've been 100 percent
certain there isn't going to be a season. But it seems like the last
couple of days, I've kind of gotten the feeling that something's
gonna get done and we're going to be playing hockey again pretty
Peca's outlook is surprising, considering how strongly Saskin
downplayed the league's offer and any progress being made. Peca,
however, voiced a growing frustration among the players that the
soapboxing by both sides has become tiresome - especially on the
issue of the union's staunch opposition to a salary cap.
"I've always viewed it as it's tough going into a negotiation saying
you're never going to accept something," Peca said. "This isn't me
saying that it's all good and dandy, let's sign the [NHL's] deal. I'm
just saying it's always hard to go into a negotiation saying, 'I'm
never going to accept that.' Because then you're not giving yourself
much room to negotiate. I think both sides are guilty of that."
Saskin blasted the league for its "single-minded fixation on the
salary cap" and claimed there were "many, many other meaningful ways"
to control player costs without having to implement a cap. He
wouldn't confirm the union will come back today with a
counteroffer. "I've said for some time that I don't think the lobbing
of proposals back and forth is a benefit to the process," Saskin said.
Peca, who has lost more than $2.6 million in salary this season, said
it might be time for both sides to consider the consequences of
another day of fruitless negotiations, which is the eventual
cancellation of the season. The belief among the players is if a deal
isn't made now, the league could be shut down for more than one
"The main concern amongst players ... is two years go by and then
what?" Peca said. "Are we going to get a deal that we want in two
years? That's debatable. I think both sides feel that for both sides
to get the best deal, it's to get it done now, not the future."
Major points in the NHL proposal
Covers six full seasons (through 2010-11), with the NHLPA's right to
opt out after the fourth full season (2008-09).
A 53-percent minimum to 55-percent maximum linkage between leaguewide
revenue and player salaries, with a "floating" team payroll range of
a minimum of $29.8 million per team, capping at $40 million.
This range would be adjusted for changes in leaguewide revenue.
For a shortened 2005 season, players would be paid a portion of
revenue from the playoffs in order to reach the agreed 53-percent
Reduced age for unrestricted free agency from 31 to 30, with a
possible reduction to 28.
Profit-sharing with the players, who would be eligible for a 50-50
share over a negotiated level.
A jointly approved third-party auditor to keep owners honest with
their financial claims, with penalties in the form of fines and draft
picks for violators.
A joint owner-player council to discuss business and game-related
Four-year, two-way rookie contracts capping salaries at $850,000 with
a set signing-bonus structure, but league offering bonuses for
Guaranteed contracts remain.
League minimum salary increase of 62 percent to $300,000.