NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to attendees during "Sports Teams for Social Change," hosted by Beyond Sport United on September 27, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Last weekend, it was reported that the NHL kicked off the negotiations with the NHLPA by submitting what many have considered an outrageous proposal for alterations to the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Much has been made of this, and there are a lot of people who have considered this the opening shot in a war. Which may or may not be the case.
The fact of the matter is that this is an ongoing negotiation. The NHL's proposal may seem a bit over-the-top to some, but it's just a starting point. The NHLPA has yet to offer a counter proposal.
There are two ways to go about an initial offer. You can either submit your ideal wish list, or you can be more moderate and try to submit something closer to what you think the other side will agree to. Obviously, the NHL decided to offer the worst (or best, from their perspective) of their demands.
Does that mean that there's going to be an owners' lockout or a players' strike? Of course not. It just means that that's a starting point to talk down from.
(Yes, I realize that the players have said that they'd be willing to start the season while negotiations were ongoing, but things can change over the course of negotiating.)
Here are the tweets that started it all - Renaud Lavoie from RDS reported on Twitter in regards to what the NHL would ideally like to have:
NHL proposal to players: 1-reduce players hockey related revenues to 46% from 57 %. 2-10 seasons in NHL before being UFA.— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) July 14, 2012
3-contracts limites to 5 years 4-no more salary arbitration. 5- entry-level contract 5 years instead of 3.— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) July 14, 2012
The fact that the NHLPA has said nothing, and haven't come up with a counter offer yet, is a good thing. It means that whatever they bring to the table won't be a knee-jerk reaction. Probably. It'll be interesting to see whether they take a similar direction as the NHL and present their wish list, or if they'll be more realistic about things.
Right now, there's a lot of posturing going on and a number of things have been "leaked" to the press that don't necessarily sound promising. That probably doesn't mean a lot at this stage. Both sides are trying to garner sympathy, and much of it is testing the waters to see how the other side reacts.
There will be a lot of doom and gloom talk from both the NHL and the NHLPA in the coming weeks, and that's just pushing buttons. It doesn't necessarily mean much, however. I wouldn't take it very seriously unless/until training camps are canceled.
The point of any negotiation is to go back and forth in order to come up with a compromise. Right now, it's far too early in the process to say whether the season will start on time or not. Give it a month; then we'll all have a better idea of where everyone stands.