The NHL and the NHLPA have not met face-to-face for CBA negotiations since Wednesday, and since the break-up of talks, much of the debate has been around a so-called 50/50 split in of hockey-related revenue between the two sides. Why don't they just split it and sign on the dotted line?
The owners' initial CBA proposal outlined a 57/43 split of HRR in favor of their side. The players' proposal outlined a 54/46 split in favor of their side, down from the 57/43 split they see under the current CBA. Roughly a 50/50 split was negotiated in both the NBA and the NFL a year ago, and at face value, that makes the NHL's current split seem like a huge win for the players.
But speaking on a conference call Friday afternoon, NHLPA head Donald Fehr went on the offensive, explaining in great detail the union view that the two sides actually have a 50/50 split of revenues already.
"Let me caution you when you start taling about 50/50 splits," Fehr said. "If you start talking about all revenue as opposed to hockey-related revenue, the way we calculate it the players are already at just about 50/50. Hockey-related revenue begins by subtracting some amounts of revenue. They don't count. What I'm saying is that if you add those things back in and then take what the players get, we calculate that to be about 51 percent."
Fehr said that the players are compromising directly off the start based on the fact that the league has a salary cap.
"Suppose the players came in -- as we have not done -- and we said, 'This is what we want. We'll have no salary cap, have a minimum salary and benefits, which will be a small fraction of the salary bill, and all the owners can pay whatever it is they want to pay. They can adjust their salaries up and down based on what they think is best for them. Whatever the free market produces, in a real free market, the players will take.'"
"The reason we have a salary cap is because the owners believe -- and they are correct -- that the salary cap we have now pays the players less than what the free market would pay them. That's the starting point from the players' analysis, but the players are willing to live with that if we can work out an agreement."
The argument from the owners' side of things when it comes to a 50/50 split of revenues is that the two sides are partners in building and growing the NHL as a business. But Fehr rejects that idea whole-heartedly.
"If we are partners, do we have joint control?" Fehr asked. "Do we get to have an equal say on how the marketing is done, how the promotion is done, where the money is invested, where the franchises are located? Do we have an equal say on when teams are sold, where the money goes? Do we get part of that? Do we have an equal say on how the television arrangements are done?
"Do we have an equal say on anything? That's what a partnership normally implies."
We'll go out on a limb and assume that NHL owners don't share this view, but Fehr's remarks were a truly fascinating view of how the NHLPA sees the world. He reiterated that the players do not want a work stoppage and that if a stoppage does occur, it'll be because the owners dictate it. In other words, there will be no player strike this year.
The ball is in Gary Bettman's court now. Fehr expects the two to speak over the weekend before meeting again face-to-face for meetings next Wednesday.
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