Breaking Down the Biggest Remaining Hangups in the NHL CBA Talks

Nicholas GossCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2012

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
NHL commissioner Gary BettmanBruce Bennett/Getty Images

With another NHL lockout now underway, it's an appropriate time to look at how far apart the two sides are on some key issues in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

In the history of the NHL, there has never been $3-plus billion in revenue to divide among the owners and players, so it's not a big surprise that neither side has agreed on many of the core economic issues. The economic issues are the ones that often make these labor negotiations last a long time.

Let's break down the two biggest remaining hangups in the NHL CBA talks.

 

HRR (Hockey-Related Revenue)

This is one of the core economic issues that the two sides haven't been able to find an agreement on. In the CBA that just expired, the players received 57 percent of HRR, and the owners received the other 43 percent.

With costs and player salaries rising, the owners want a higher percentage this time around and, naturally, the players aren't willing to give up a lot of their 57 percent.

When each side attempted to bridge the gap on Wednesday, they were unable to find an HRR split that they could both agree on.

Below is what the NHLPA proposed (via Tom Gulitti of The Record), and what the NHL countered with (via Pierre LeBrun of TSN).

Fehr said in NHLPA offer, assuming HRR growth based on avg. over last 10 years, player share would drop from 57% to 54.3 to 52.5, 52.0, 52.3

— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) September 13, 2012

NHL counter-proposal today was six years in length: offered to start players' share at 49 percent and end it at 47 percent at end of term

— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) September 12, 2012

So there's about a five percent gap in what both sides think is fair. However, it's important to realize that while five percent may seem small, it does represent many millions of dollars.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca helps us explain how far the NHL wants the players' share to come down, and what the NHLPA is looking for.

if league is offering 49% of HRRin yr1 that's $1.7b (if revs grow 5%) Players got $1.87b last yr and want $1.91b next yr. #NHL #NHLPA

— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) September 12, 2012

Once the two sides figure out HRR, reaching a new CBA will become a bit easier. This is one of the core economic issues that is crucial to getting a deal done.

There's no reason why the two sides cannot make some good progress on HRR in the next few weeks since the financial gap has continued to decrease over the last couple months.

 

Revenue Sharing

On Thursday, Donald Fehr let his feelings be known on where revenue sharing is at right now (via Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press).

Fehr criticizes owners for not being willing to help small-market teams thru revenue sharing.

— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) September 12, 2012

Fehr on NHL's unwillingness to discuss expanded revenue sharing: "A little bit surprised, significantly disappointed."

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 13, 2012

Revenue sharing could play a vital role in hockey's future from a financial standpoint. When I dissected the NHLPA's first offer last month, I explained how rich owners probably won't want to give more of their revenues than they are now to financially-burdened teams through revenue sharing.

You could say that the best option for the league would be to contract or relocate these struggling teams, but that's a debate for another day.

The five teams who made the most revenue during the 2010-11 season, according to Forbes.com, were as follows:

Rank Team Revenue
1st Toronto Maple Leafs $193 million
2nd Montreal Canadiens $169 million
3rd New York Rangers $165 million
4th Vancouver Canucks $145 million
5th Detroit Red Wings

$127 million

For teams that have trouble reaching the salary cap floor, revenue sharing is one way to help these franchises lose as little money as possible while still meeting the salary cap requirements.

Throughout this entire process, the players have wanted to help the struggling teams through increased revenue sharing, but the league has wanted to help these teams by cutting players' salaries.

This is the battle right now in regard to revenue sharing.

 

Other Issues

Since HRR and revenue sharing are major issues that haven't been decided yet, many other topics haven't been discussed in-depth yet.

Player contracts and player discipline are two issues that are quite important to both sides, but at this point in the negotiations, not much progress has been made on either issue.

HRR and revenue sharing seem to be both sides' main priorities, which makes sense since both are quite complicated.

Until those two massive issues are sorted out, the other smaller issues will be on the back burner.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.