Game on! NHL lockout ends with tentative deal between league, NHLPA

The Canadian Press
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Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward, centre, is congratulated by teammates Karl Alzner and John Carlson after scoring a playoff goal in this file photo from The Canadian Press. Ward and his fellow NHL players will soon be back on the ice.

NEW YORK — After six long months of negotiations, it took one extremely long night to get the NHL out of the boardroom and back on the ice.

A tentative deal to end the 113-day NHL lockout was reached Sunday morning at the end of a marathon 16-hour negotiating session.

“We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a news conference. “We’ve got to dot a lot of i’s and cross a lot of t’s. There’s still a lot of work to be done but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

Before the new CBA officially comes into effect, it must be ratified by a majority of both the league’s 30 owners and the union’s membership of approximately 740 players.

“Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us,” said Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association.

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Neither side has announced any details of the deal — which came together with the help of U.S. federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh —but according to a source, it’s a 10-year agreement with an opt-out option after eight years.

It also includes defined benefit pensions for the players as well as a $64.3-million salary cap in 2013-14.

Other highlights, according to a source, include a seven-year contract term limit for free agents and eight years for players re-signing with the same team. The deal also includes a 35 per cent yearly variance in salary and no more than 50 per cent difference between any two seasons.

“Everyone is obviously relieved that it’s over and done with, for all intents and purposes, and we’re able to kind of move on to what we kind of enjoy doing a lot more than this,” said Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who was involved in the negotiations.

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It’s not clear when the season will start or exactly how many games will be played, though Winnipeg Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey — also a key figure in the negotiations — said he expects it to be 48 or 50 games.

The league was on the verge of cancelling a second season due to a work stoppage. Bettman had set a deadline of Jan. 11 to get a deal done to save the season.

“It was a battle,” said Hainsey. “Gary said a month ago it was a tough negotiation and that’s what it was. The players obviously would rather not have been here but our focus now is to give the fans whatever it is — 48 games, 50 games — the most exciting season we can.”

Hainsey said the pension ended up being a key component of the agreement.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the pension is the centrepiece of this deal for the players,” said Hainsey.

The lockout ended up costing the league 510 regular-season games — plus the all-star game in Columbus — but the most important number probably won’t be revealed for at least 18 months. The NHL was coming off seven years of record revenues when the last CBA expired, hitting a high-water mark of US$3.3-billion last season, and it remains to be seen how quickly fans and sponsors will return when the puck is dropped again.

After all, many hoped the league’s lockout cycle would be broken when the entire 2004-05 season was cancelled to get a salary cap. But it turned out the shared history of the parties, which also includes a strike in 1992 and a lockout in 1994-95, was too much to overcome.

“It was concessionary bargaining right from the beginning,” said Doan. “As the players, you kind of understand that and you accepted that. As much as you didn’t want to, we understand that the nature of professional sports has kind of changed with the last couple CBAs starting with football and basketball and obviously hockey.

“We knew we were in that position and I think as a union we got the best deal we could possibly get.”

The NHLPA membership hired Fehr out of retirement about 21 months before the CBA expired with the express purpose of getting the players a fair shake in these negotiations. And the union’s executive director made it clear that his players were still stinging after being locked out for an entire season just eight years earlier.

“Obviously, what happened in the last round of negotiations is the starting point for this round of bargaining,” Fehr told The Canadian Press just before formal talks began with the league at the end of June. “The players made what can only be characterized as enormous concessions. And so you want to make sure that the players understand what happened the last time and that they take that as the beginnings of where things go from here.”

Negotiations got off to a rocky start.

The first offer tabled by the NHL on July 13 was intended to be a wishlist for the sides to start from, but instead seemed to anger and galvanize the union membership. In addition to proposing that the players’ share in revenue drop from 57 per cent to 43 per cent, the league suggested a range of changes to contract rules, including term limits of five years and an extended entry-level system.

It would be another month before the NHLPA delivered a counter-offer.

By then, it was already clear the sides were heading for another lockout once the CBA expired and when the moment of truth arrived on Sept. 15, they were nowhere near the bargaining table. Soon most of the news about the league was dominated by cancellation announcements — first a portion of the pre-season, then all of the exhibition schedule and eventually the first two weeks of the regular season.

The league eventually responded with a surprise beefed-up proposal on Oct. 16 that offered an enticing carrot to players: The chance to save an 82-game season. It included a 50-50 split of revenues and required the deal to be signed off on within nine days.

“If we didn’t do it now, if we didn’t put an offer on the table that we thought was fair and could get us playing hockey ... then it probably wasn’t going to happen for a while,” said Bettman. “It’s done in the spirit of getting a full season in.”

Fehr and the players didn’t blink. They returned 48 hours later with three proposals and an impressive roster of attendees, including Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, and saw all three shot down by Bettman in a matter of minutes.

More cancellation announcements followed, including the Jan. 1 Winter Classic outdoor game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. The losses were mounting. Bettman told reporters that each day came at a cost of almost $20 million per day for the league.

The first true surge of optimism arrived during the first week of December, when Crosby and four new owners, including Pittsburgh’s Ron Burkle, joined the process and brought a more conciliatory tone. The first day of talks stretched past midnight and ended with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr calling it the “best day” of talks.

That was immediately followed by another lengthy session the following afternoon where proposals were exchanged and tempers were heated.

On the third day, it went off the rails. Donald Fehr presented a new proposal, told reporters the sides were so close they were virtually on top of each other and then quickly returned to announce the league was pulling its latest offer from the table. Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly followed with an emotional 30-minute press conference, where the commissioner was asked about the possibility of losing a second season on his watch.

“Am I unhappy about the prospect? You bet I am,” said Bettman. “It’s absolutely something that torments me. But by the same token I have a long-term responsibility to this game and to the fans of the game to make sure we have a healthy product. Too many people are forgetting where we were 10 years ago. And the fact is we didn’t have a healthy game, and we had too many franchises that couldn’t continue.

“We did what we had to do in 2004 to make it right, and we’re focused with our owners on what we need to make this game healthy for our fans.”

The frustration was shared by everyone involved. Crosby returned to a practice rink in suburban Pittsburgh, where he spent the majority of his time staying sharp during the lockout, and told reporters he wouldn’t re-enter negotiations.

“This stuff is getting ridiculous, (losing) all these games,” said Crosby. “I’m here to play hockey, I’m not here to negotiate. I support the players. I witnessed how hard guys worked and how bad they want this to work.

“But to see this happen, it’s terrible. It makes everyone look bad.”

The window to make a deal finally opened Dec. 27 in the form of a 288-page proposal emailed from Bettman to Fehr. In it, the league softened demands on contract lengths and salary variance, and reintroduced $300 million in deferred payments to help ease the transition to a system where revenues are split 50-50.

That sparked a resumption of negotiations on New Year’s Eve — just steps from Times Square, where thousands of revellers gathered — and kicked off the push to the finish. A series of proposals were exchanged as the sides moved closer together and when talks were in danger of getting off track, Beckenbaugh stepped in to ensure they didn’t.

He spent almost 13 hours shuttling between independent meetings with the two sides on Friday and got them back together at the bargaining table on Saturday afternoon. That’s where the deal was signed to save a shortened NHL season.

 

 

A look at some highlights of the tentative CBA deal between NHL, NHLPA

By Chris Johnston

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association reached a tenative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement around 4:45 a.m. ET Sunday. While the deal still needs to be ratified by the players and the league, here are some of the main highlights, based on information from sources:

— The CBA will run for 10 years through 2021-22, with an option to terminate the deal after eight years.

— Players receive defined benefit pension plan.

— Owners and players split revenue 50-50 each season, with the players receiving $300 million in deferred “make-whole payments” to ease the transition from previous system.

— A pro-rated salary cap of $70.2-million for the shortened 2012-13 season followed by a salary cap of $64.3-million in 2013-14. The salary floor will be set at $44 million for both years.

— Seven-year limit on free-agent contracts (eight-year limit when a team signs its own player to an extension).

— A maximum salary variance of 35 per cent from year to year, with no more than a 50 per cent total difference between any two seasons in the contract.

— The minimum salary starts at $525,000 this season and reaches $750,000 for the 10th and final year of the agreement.

— Teams can only walk away from a player in salary arbitration who is awarded at least $3.5 million.

— Each team will be given the option of two “amnesty buyouts” that can be used to terminate contracts prior to the 2013-14 season or 2014-15 season. The buyouts will cost two-thirds of the remaining amount on a deal — paid evenly over twice its remaining length — and will count against the players’ overall share in revenues, but not the individual team’s salary cap.

— Revenue sharing between teams increased to $200 million annually.

— Any player on a one-way contract who plays in the American Hockey League with a salary in excess of the NHL’s minimum salary plus $375,000 will have the excess amount charged against his team’s salary cap.

— Unrestricted free agency continues to open on July 1.

— The participation of NHLers in future Olympics has yet to be determined. The decision will be made outside of the CBA.

 

 

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • statler
    January 06, 2013 - 17:31

    I was going to comment but the rest of you said it all WHO CARES ANYMORE

  • Henry Sow
    January 06, 2013 - 13:27

    I will not be watching HNIC, or Sportsnet with hockey games being broadcast. I have gotten used to the idea of not seeing NHL hockey and I rather enjoy it. Thanks but no thanks millionaires on ice.

  • Crazyhorse
    January 06, 2013 - 12:23

    Settle down people. All I see are people posting out of jealousy and envy. Not one of you have a clue what it takes to fix the problems the last CBA had. I for one have followed CBA negotiations on a daily basis and yes I was angry at times, but the results of this new CBA will pay off big time for the whole league. Quit whining about the past, educate yourselves on the situation and look forward to some top tier hockey!! Boycott?? What are you going to boycott? CBC hnic? the league makes nothing off it. You'd be hurting the CBC. It's OK to watch the games. 90% of revenue comes from ticket and merchandise sales which most of you won't spend on anyways. Go to the sports bars and support them..they've been hurting from all this and you won't be giving in to the so called greed. BTW, this new CBA will help the sport more than the lockout hurt the fans. Business is business. Accept it for what it is and don't manifest reasoning that doesn't exist.

  • hostages released
    January 06, 2013 - 12:20

    Fans need their hockey fix and will return like addicts to their addiction. They will become even more rabid about it, at least in the top markets and in Canada. Anything to plug up that missed fix. Merchandise will fly off the shelves etc The US smaller markets will struggle. The ones that were dragging to begin with will suffer furthur damages. I love hockey but when hearing they had tentavily resolved the lock out, the first words spoken werent good but a string of swears. Its the fans and the vendors who rely on hockey, the support staff at rinks , etc that were held hostage and really suffered. Not Bettman, or the players

  • stop complaining
    January 06, 2013 - 11:54

    Ok, so we know there are people out there that are not going to watch it again, SO DO THAT AND KEEP QUIET! Nobody wants to hear you complain about the players and the money they make. If you are not going to watch hockey again great, just dont spew your garbage on here for people who are excited to see it back. Go watch the Panthers and Rocket, but we all know, there is no comparison to NHL Hockey, so you will watch soon enough.

  • Mell
    January 06, 2013 - 11:49

    GREED AND SELFISHNESS IS WHAT IT BOILS DOWN TO! Bettman should have been fired long ago as he was a cog in the wheel and a go between negotiator brought in to solve this long ago. The players, along with other sports, make millions of dollars, and the pension should not have been a sticking point, because making that kind of money, the players could well afford to invest for their own pension, besides, one concussion and you could be out of action and possibly retired anyway! There is too much fighting and serious fighting leading to injuries that affect players for life, and it has gotten out of hand as they just let them keep on fighting. This is not a good example for young players coming up in the world of hockey. Children imitate what they see and learn to play like them- fighting! These selfish people have hurt alot of the folks that run businesses near and at the arenas and they will never recoup their losses, but the players and owners will because of the millions of dollars they are paid to PLAY and own the game of hockey! I hope the fans take this in consideration when they pay for their expensive tickets to see hockey again- will it be the same?- not in alot of peoples' eyes. Do they deserve loyalty?- only from the brainwashed lovers of the sport. The whole thing stinks to high heaven and the way the organization has held people and fans captive and ruined the winter sport for some do not deserve loyalty.

  • Mell
    January 06, 2013 - 11:47

    GREED AND SELFISHNESS IS WHAT IT BOILS DOWN TO! Bettman should have been fired long ago as he was a cog in the wheel and a go between negotiator brought in to solve this long ago. The players, along with other sports, make millions of dollars, and the pension should not have been a sticking point, because making that kind of money, the players could well afford to invest for their own pension, besides, one concussion and you could be out of action and possibly retired anyway! There is too much fighting and serious fighting leading to injuries that affect players for life, and it has gotten out of hand as they just let them keep on fighting. This is not a good example for young players coming up in the world of hockey. Children imitate what they see and learn to play like them- fighting! These selfish people have hurt alot of the folks that run businesses near and at the arenas and they will never recoup their losses, but the players and owners will because of the millions of dollars they are paid to PLAY and own the game of hockey! I hope the fans take this in consideration when they pay for their expensive tickets to see hockey again- will it be the same?- not in alot of peoples' eyes. Do they deserve loyalty?- only from the brainwashed lovers of the sport. The whole thing stinks to high heaven and the way the organization has held people and fans captive and ruined the winter sport for some do not deserve loyalty.

  • boycottnhl
    January 06, 2013 - 10:52

    WaWaWa the cry babies got a tentative agreement..... they must have decided who gets the money from the parking meters in front of the rinks........ the greedy bunch of whiners........ send them all to PEI to pick cold crops for 10 bucks an hour.... and see how they like their pay then.... I wish everybody would boycott the NHL this season because without the fans they have nothing........

    • Jealous much?
      January 06, 2013 - 12:33

      For starters, parking meters are between the franchise and the city to decide. " I wish everybody would boycott the NHL this season because without the fans they have nothing" or without the players, the fans have nothing..or without the owners the players have nothing..and if the players have nothing then the fans have nothing. See what I'm getting at here. Your remarks couldn't be more shortsighted if you tried.

  • Disgusted
    January 06, 2013 - 10:47

    Who really cares anymore? It's all about the money and NOT the game. Just a lot of SPOILED RICH KIDS

  • Big Deal
    January 06, 2013 - 10:32

    I'd rather watch the Panthers.

  • AMAZED
    January 06, 2013 - 10:28

    Now that the boys have it all worked out everyone should boycott the first week or two of what is left of the season.Heck, I'm washing my hands of the whole thing.Greed is disgusting.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    January 06, 2013 - 10:26

    So who cares. Hockey is not the game we knew as kids. All it is now is another money making racket with overpaid, egotistical players. I haven't watched a hockey game since there were only 9 teams and I don't feel like I missed out on anything. By the way, I am not just annoyed with hockey but also baseball, football, soccer, etc., etc. Like all other aspects of society today everybody (players and team owners) seems to be out for all they can get. In other words the whole crap shoot is based on greed. What a wonderful thing to be teaching our children!! Even if a few parents realize this and get their kids out of these sports it won't really make a difference because they are being taught to be selfish from practically every aspect of society.

    • Ulfric
      January 06, 2013 - 12:27

      " I haven't watched a hockey game since there were only 9 teams" Well there you have it. There was never a point in league history where there were 9 teams. It went from 6 to 12 and grew from there. You just don't like sports...

    • dm
      January 06, 2013 - 14:49

      Billy go read the some more fake chain emails

  • JIM MACCALLUM
    January 06, 2013 - 10:07

    I think everyone should boycot the games empty seat would show owners and players that the fans are not happy when the rich wine about money just my thoughts!

  • MILLIONAIRES WIN
    January 06, 2013 - 10:05

    Nothing better then to turn on the news and listen about players making millions per year arguing about their pensions. This has been ridiculous from the start. Players are paid to play hockey. Don't play you don't get your over inflated salaries. Very simple. Then in comes the union who I imagine are making thousands per day to supposedly look after the interests of the players. The only ones who are upset by this appears to be the fans which apparently believe that without the hockey this courtry will collapse. GET A LIFE and understand that THIS IS A GAME and you live in the real world.