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Tentative deal reached to end lockout

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 KWAK: Who got what? | TIMELINE: Milestone moments | GALLERY: Biggest contracts
By Stu Hackel

At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr stepped before reporters’ microphones at a midtown Manhattan hotel to announce they had reached an agreement on the framework of a deal to end the owners’ 113-day lockout of the players. The agreement came after a marathon bargaining session of 16 hours, and a typically stormy week of talks in which the distrust between the sides — something that was a near-constant for the length of this process — made some people wonder if the season could be saved.

Details of the agreement have not been officially announced, nor has a start date for the season. It could be a 50-game schedule, which would begin on Jan. 15, or a 48-game slate that would start on Jan. 19. That determination will be made based on how quickly teams believe they can recall their players to get training camp under way and at what point during the next few days lawyers can finalize the language of the CBA so both the owners and players can ratify the agreement.

UPDATE: There are now reports that training camps won’t open before Friday and perhaps as late as Monday, with the season being 48 games. The NHL Board of Governors will meet this coming Wednesday. The schedule, according to reports, would begin on Jan. 19 with all 30 teams in action. None of this is confirmed.

It seems that on many of the final issues, both sides gave in on previously intractable stances.

The players agreed to the owners’ desire for a 10-year deal, with an opt-out after eight, and the owners agreed to move off their $60 million salary cap for 2013-14. It was set at $64.3 million, closer to the players’ desired $65 million figure, while the floor remained at $44 million at the suggestion of the players.

In an effort to prevent backdiving contracts designed to circumvent the cap, salaries cannot vary more than 35 per cent from year to year (the owners had initially asked for a five percent variance) and at no point can salary go below 50 percent of the highest year.

Individual player contracts can be as long as seven years — eight for a team signing its own player. (The owners had sought a five-year limit, then raised it to six, with the re-signing player limited to seven; there had previously been no limits.)

The players’ share of revenue, which varied from 54-57 percent of Hockey Related Revenue in the last CBA will be set at 50 percent for the entire length of this deal.

TSN.ca has some additional details on the agreement here.

Prior to this week’s meetings, there had already been agreement on some significant issues. Revenue sharing among the clubs will be increased to $200 million annually, a boost from the league’s previous level, which was around $150 million. The players had proposed a $250 million pool, including the creation of what they called an “Industry Growth Fund” — $100 million to be administered by the commissioner’s office to assist the less wealthy clubs. That fund will be part of the new agreement, although it is unclear at the moment how large it will be.

Other CBA matters that are less economically related include a new appeals process on player suspensions. The appeal of any suspension longer than five games will now be heard by a third-party rather than by the NHL commissioner. The players had objected to the previous appeal process because the person hearing the appeal appoints the person who makes the original ruling, and they sought a neutral perspective on that.

Additionally, the NHL Entry Draft will see a change so that every team that misses the playoffs will have an opportunity to win the weighted lottery and get the first pick. Previously, the team that won the lottery could only move up four spots in the draft order, which excluded most of the non-playoff clubs from drafting first overall.

The agreement is still subject to some important hurdles, including the not-insignificant actual legal writing of the document, considering that late last week the players accused the owners of altering written versions of the document from what had earlier been agreed upon) and ratification by the NHLPA and the NHL’s Board of Governors.

Why it came together

Reaching this deal was due to a few factors:

1. The work of Federal Mediator Scot Beckenbaugh. He rejoined the talks last Monday and, even following the most contentious moments, was able to get the sides to find the commonality that was so elusive during the course of negotiations. Even this past week, when things might have derailed, Beckenbaugh worked diligently to get things back on track. After making progress earlier in the week, relations between the sides grew very testy when the players suspected that the league purposely altered the agreement document to remove penalties levied against the clubs for misreporting revenue. As a result, the sides did not meet face to face on Thursday, but Beckenbaugh shuttled between the league’s offices and the hotel in Manhattan where the NHLPA had encamped and was able to get discussions moving again. He brought the sides together on Friday afternoon to begin the final slog to the finish line. While the players always were in favor of mediation, the owners had resisted it earlier in the process, and even when Beckenbaugh first joined the talks in December, the league was not especially optimistic that what he offered would be helpful. They became more supportive recently, however, and his participation — as Bettman noted in the video above — was essential.

2. The threat by the players of disclaiming interest in their union. That essentially meant dissolving it as their bargaining agent in these negotiations. Had they actually done so, they would have removed the legal obstacles preventing them from pursing anti-trust litigation against the owners. If lawsuits of that nature had proceeded, and if a judge ruled in favor of the players, the owners would have been liable for triple the monetary damages being sought. This was a tactic to get the league to bargain more actively when it showed little willingness to compromise on key issues and it was only put before the players reluctantly by the NHLPA leadership rather late in the process; some labor law experts and observers believed the union should have gone this route weeks, if not months, ago. The players first voted to give their executive committee the authority to disclaim interest in late December, with an expiration date of Jan. 2, and as that date came closer, progress began to be made. When it expired and there was no agreement, the players detected that the owners changed their approach to bargaining, so they voted again to give their executive that authority and an agreement followed in short order.

On Canada’s Sportnet, Phoenix Coyotes Captain Shane Doan told the network’s correspondents who were covering the lockout that the players not using the disclaimer weapon had more to do with the deal being concluded, presumably because it indicated to the owners that the players were interested in reaching an agreement. Here’s that interview:

3. The removal of owners from the process. At many of the major bargaining sessions, a group of hardline owners sat across the table from the union representatives and players. Those sessions were generally unproductive and, at times, fractious. More progress was made in early December when some less militant owners joined the talks and Bettman and Fehr temporarily excluded themselves. But the hardest of the hardliners, Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs and Calgary’s Murray Edwards, remained involved and those sessions couldn’t finish off the agreement. Talks came crashing to a halt when the players said they wanted Fehr back in the process, that they were not trained in the art of closing the deal, and having their leader present was something they were certainly entitled to do. Edwards reportedly told them that Fehr’s return would be a deal-killer and things ground to a halt. Following that episode, the league wisely decided against active ownership participation.

4. The calendar. The concern that not coming to an agreement by January 11 might mean a season would not be played was crucial. Bettman had said that he didn’t think less than 48 games made any sense and his time frame included a schedule starting no later than Jan. 19. Some even believed that negotiations would extend beyond this weekend as the sides attempted to wring every last point from each other. But as momentum built during the last couple of days, progress continued until the players and owners were able to announce this framework, which has tentatively brought to a close one of the most belligerent chapters in NHL history.

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  • Published On Jan 06, 2013
  • 26 comments
    StephenEndicott
    StephenEndicott

    I would suggest that if anyone is serious about making a statement, fight fire with fire -- or, more to the point, fight money with money. Don't just boycott going to the arena; boycott TV hockey, TOO, and write a letter or send an e-mail to EVERY sponsor of your team, telling them you will not be watching OR purchasing their products this season. At that point, everyone with a money interest gets the message. Never underestimate the power of advertisers. Yeah, that's a lot of work and a lot of commitment, but it would be effective. Fact is, though, most fans probably love hockey more than they hate the lockout and the two sides. That's why we'll fume until the puck drops, then everybody will go back to normal -- and it's why owners and players know they can get away with this garbage. This mess is ultimately the fans' fault because we aren't really, seriously, willing to do anything about it. Sorry this is so long.

    James H2
    James H2

    Bettman, Stern, Selig, and even Goodel (the best of the lot but that's not saying much): has there ever been a time when the four major team sports (sorry soccer fans) have had such poor leadership as far as player relationships?

    GreenMtnskier
    GreenMtnskier

    Who cares.  I have been an avid fan since I used to watch games with my brothers back in the late 60's on a black & white TV that was like watching in a snow storm, but I will not attend another game or purchase anything NHL related as long as Bettman remains as Commissioner.  Bettman has been and remains a disaster for the NHL as any true NHL fan and most players recognize; that's why he is ALWAYS met with a chorus of boos whenever he starts yapping before handing out the Stanley Cup.  I question whether a majority of owner's are truly interested in a quality NHL, as it appears more and more that they are only interested in making more money for themselves.

    cpovey
    cpovey

    I suggest that ALL hockey fans BOYCOTT their team's first home game, to demonstrate how upset they are with the people on both sides that run this sport, especially the commissioner and the players union chief. Maybe that will scare them into respecting the fans that pay all their salaries.

    J12
    J12

    Does anybody care anymore? They absolutely treat their fans like garbage and now they want us to cheer there's an agreement?! After 113 days??? Wow.

     

    The loop holes in the last CBA created a nightmare situation with the cap and the moronic ways to circumvent it. We saw moronic contracts for hundreds of years. High paid business men actually came up with that rubbish. 

     

    In no rush to watch any hockey. GO SEAHAWKS!

    nyjets011269
    nyjets011269

    It's real easy.   DON'T GO!  We know that will never happen because fans are a bunch of suckers.  I am a big hockey fan but the only way to show the league how upset we are is to not show up.  At least for opening night.  Won't happen unfortunately.

    ScottAdams
    ScottAdams

    Millionaires poking Billionaires in the eyes with a sharp stick - wondering why nobody can see!  Crazy... I'd LOVE to see NOBODY show up to the first games.  I believe the impact of total apathy would be an important message for them.  I used to  LOVE the NHL.  I could not give a damn now... THEY do not give a damn about the fans.  I am happy for all the collateral damage getting back to work though... the bars... the restaurants... those who sell jerseys and stuff...

    peterweicker
    peterweicker

    The lockout's only winners were Leafs fans, but now they have to watch them play.

    DaveGillespie
    DaveGillespie

    Biggest problem is the NHL needs to get fans and this whole deal killed some of the fans they have now.  Stupid move by the owners to do the lockout when you are less important than even some college sports.

    sam62
    sam62

    All about money!

    pscho_yeg
    pscho_yeg

    Looking at the limited information available it looks like another huge win for the owners. Players get lower % of revenue. Player contract length now limited. Percentage increase within contracted limited. This is two agreements in a row that have seen owners benefit by 100s of millions of dollars. So glad it is all done - was completely sick of hearing about it.

    FlyerDoug
    FlyerDoug

    At this point who cares, it always about the money no matter what, they care only about the money, owners and players. The only people that really suffered are the people that work at the arenas. So boycott, don't boycott, who cares not the owners, not the players, not me!

    RockyFortune
    RockyFortune

    yeah because booing after paying a mint to go to a game is going to really hurt the nhl. 

    CobyPreimesberger
    CobyPreimesberger

    another big elaphant in the room that has to be dealt with though, which led to this whole lock-out mess is realignment as winnipeg even though it looks like this year will be all confernce games, is still at comepetive disadvantage as they are a northwest team that plays in the southeast confernce and realignment that would've put them in the west for this season was blocked not by the owner's who saw it as dumb and unamiously approved realignement but fehr, which is really brought on the lock-out because fehr didn't budge on winipeg and realignment when if you ask the winipeg palyers they would like to be in the west, I mean the first round of realignment was because toronto was the eastern most team in the western conference, and now .  Plus they would be better offf doing it this week, because the 19th no one is going to be paying atteention, as most of the networks will be gearing up for championship sunday in the nfl, but at least coming back they will have one huge week to themselves and that is the week between the pro bowl and super bowl, and that will be the likely highest rated games they have

     

    DanielGower
    DanielGower

    what's that silence you hear? nhl arenas still empty because we are sick of nhl commisioner gary bettman. hopefully this does happen. if not it'll  show the players and owners that their customers are mindless sheep who'll come to games no matter how badly the powers that be will toy with their product. hey it happens in all the other sports too, so i guess we are sheep

    TwelveMile
    TwelveMile

    I hope, at the start of the first game in every arena, the fans BOO like crazy.  Then drop the puck, already, and get on with it!

    James H2
    James H2

     @cpovey Didn't happen before, didn't happen in baseball, didn't happen in basketball, isn't going to happen now in hockey.

    geeon1
    geeon1

     @cpovey NO Boycott the entire season teach both sides a lesson.

    geeon1
    geeon1

     @DaveGillespie Stupid move by the players: Please don't forget that the Owners pay for everything out of the HRR. Players only take care of themselves. Owners pay for equip,maintenance,injuries,insurance, employees etc: Players get too much.

    geeon1
    geeon1

     @pscho_yeg Owners had to protect themselves from themselves: They continually try to bring the best product to the ice that they can. Not really paying attention to costs. Now they ahve a control placed upon their stupidity.

    StephenCurtis
    StephenCurtis

     @FlyerDoug Your right its always about money , Thats because sports weather we like it or not are big buisness. Even college football. Thats a fact of life. So yea every labor deal is about money. U are also right the only people who suffer from a lockout are the bars and buisnesses for the most part that are near hockey arenas. we knew this already. The thing is if u boycott games live those buisnesses will still suffer. 

    gozurman
    gozurman

     @DanielGower Why is it all Bettman's fault? Fehr has equal blame if not more. Remember all of the chaos he caused in MLB.  It is easy to point a Bettman but the owners employ him and tell him what to do.  He does not negotiate but owners do

    geeon1
    geeon1

    Smartest thing we the fans could do would be to not attend the first few games. Show our displeasure at their ineptitude right in their wallets.

    JoeCabot
    JoeCabot

     @TwelveMile Good one.  Pay the NHL money for the privilege to boo for a few seconds.  They know that their fans will continue to shell out too much money regardless of how badly they are treated so they keep getting away with destroying the game.