You've probably heard the news by now - as it broke yesterday - that the National Hockey League's owners have made a substantial proposal toward the NHL Players Association. You can find the details of the offer on NHL.com this morning - which in itself is a huge turn of events as the league and Commissioner Gary Bettman himself have said they do not / will not negotiate publicly.
The detail that was addressed to the public yesterday was that ownerships offer had a 50 - 50 revenue split between the NHL and NHLPA. Other details that leaked yesterday had been about free agency, AHL contracts counting against the cap, and the fact a full 82-game season would be salvaged (with a start date of November 2nd).
That is, if the Players accept this offer as-is, which isn't negotiating.
As has been said by others online, this was the offer that the NHL should have made from the get-go. This should have been the offer to use as a starting point in talks. It's another ultimatum offer today, with the threat of "signature NHL events" being canceled if the agreement isn't ratified by October 25th.
You don't make threats if there's genuine goodwill being made in a collective bargaining session.
My question on all this is what's changed?
No, I don't mean details of the offer. I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow comparison to previous offers from ownership. There are details that are worth noting though - some stated directly by Bettman and by his second-in-command, Bob Daly.
Daly's belligerence publicly is what comes to mind first of all. He's said repeatedly the league was waiting for the NHLPA's next counter proposal. Waiting. Waiting. No, it's not that they were told a counter-proposal was coming. It was trying to lump the expectations on the Players Association. "It's all on them, don't look at us." All while the NHL was on record with its own draconian offers that wasn't the least bit constructive in a sense of negotiating.
Another quizzical change is Bettman letting this offer go through. There have been rumors and whispers that Bettman was adamant on getting the players an offer of sub-50% in revenues. At least one online report had suggested Bettman wanted to beat former boss (NBA Commissioner) David Stern's deal with the National Basketball League's Players Association. He thought Stern had caved in his agreement with the NBA union... In other words; Gary wanted to put the players in their place and prove he was now the master compared to his teacher.
What changed that an offer came out from ownership? It shouldn't be looked at an as a final deal. What it should be looked at as is a starting point that ownership willingly put off. It's an offer that should have gone out in July. Instead, we've had months of the 2012 NHL CBA rhetoric and a clear month of players locked out by ownership.
What changed? And here's a follow-up question: How will the NHLPA respond?
So much attention has been paid to the Frank Luntz focus group study, and the entire offer by the NHL can be seen as an attempt to sway public opinion into their favor. They've made a "fair" offer and those offer details are available to the public. The ball moves into the NHL Players Association court, and could very much result in crashing and burning depending on how the Union responds.
I don't expect a Bob Goodenow-esque outright rejection that we saw (several times) during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, where the Players Association rarely countered or negotiated on points in the offered CBA deals from ownership. It is possible for the NHLPA to make a constructive counter-proposal, "We'll accept this new rule but under this stipulation instead of this..."
What changed in the NHL offices that led to a degree of concessions from ownership that wins them public favor and potentially salvage the season? No clue. I don't put it up to Luntz, or the exposure of the focus group rhetoric.
What's changed in the world of hockey with the revelation of this offer? Just about everything. The league is energized. There's a degree of hope out there. That's something that's been missing throughout this whole bloody affair.