The NHL is expected to begin its new season on January 1 of next year. The players in the league thought they had all the negotiations and paperwork out of the way, having just finally completed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) and the team owners just 4 months ago.
However, with just a little more than a month to go until the puck hits the ice for the first time in the new season, the players feel like they have been “blindsided” by team owners, who now suddenly want to change some of the provisions already agreed on in the new CBA. As one player rep put it, “This is a headache we weren’t expecting.”
The NHL CBA Is Causing Issues
Using the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason, the team owners, who are all millionaires, are now looking at the new season with the COVID-19 virus still on the rampage, most especially in the areas where most of the professional hockey teams are located. They watch NFL games being played in empty stadiums and cringe at the thought of the same thing happening to them during the upcoming season.
It is likely that most of the owners, players and coaches were thinking that surely this pandemic would be over and done with by 2021 and their venues would fill up like always. Now is does not look like that will happen.
Even with the excellent news that a vaccine for COVID-19 is now showing every sign of being effective, there are still the problems of producing enough of the vaccine and setting up a workable distribution network so that everyone can get the shot. The owners have now decided, probably over some fine XO Brandy and Cuban Cohibas, that the players should share in the financial burden they are now facing and come up with some new ideas to make money for the league.
However, their very first proposal was viewed as a non-starter by the representatives of the NHLPA. Of course, it has to do with money. The concepts of deferred compensation and funds held in escrow are not new, but now the owners want to change the numbers around to better suit their own pocketbooks.
NHL Team Owners Want Players To Take A Hit
In their proposal, deferred compensation would climb to 20%, while the escrow figure would go up to 25% for this season. That’s half of players’ salaries – no wonder the players are not happy about this new unwelcome news. It is quite a jump from the deferred 10% of the players 2020-21 seasons salaries, to be paid in three installments from 2022-25. The escrow was at 20% before.
It went from bad to worse when the owners presented their second proposal, which included deferred compensation that would go up to 26% in 2020-21 and escrow that would increase by around at least 8.5% from years 4-6, a substantial increase over what was originally proposed.
That did not go over well with some players, either, and they are now saying that they were appalled by the audacity of the offer. These young men don’t want to be taking about some deal that will not come to fruition six years down the road. The players attitude on this is that, “Hey, we made a deal. A deal is a deal and you guys can’t just change your minds at this late date.” Most of the players are pretty sure that if the NHLPA had gone to the owners proposing to change the deal, the answer would be a big flat NO WAY.
The NHLPA Expects Changes
One of the player reps said, “If we are going to budge on this, we have to get something in return. They’re going to have to come up with something good if we’re going to make this happen.” It would be difficult to alter the CBA without both sides reaching new terms, and owners are going to have to be prepared to sweeten the deal a lot if they expect to find some type of compromise. If not, and if they try to hold onto their dreams, the NHL season could be in jeopardy.