As the NHL and NHLPA prepare for the next round of collective bargaining agreement meetings, there are a few things each side must do in negotiations for the lockout to end before the 2012-13 season is lost.
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, the two sides don't have a date for the next meeting:
NHL and NHLPA touched based today via phone. Plan is to touch base again this weekend but at this point no official barg talks scheduled— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) November 23, 2012
Let's examine what each side must do to ensure that the season is saved.
NHL Must Budge on Player Contract Issues
The league foolishly gave the players pretty much everything they wanted in regard to contract rights during the last lockout, and now they want the NHLPA to make some concessions on these issues.
The league must change its position on rookie contracts and term limits. There is a zero percent chance that the five-year term limit proposed by the owners will be accepted by the players.
Agreeing to this would greatly impact the players' earning potential, especially since the NHLPA's share of hockey-related revenue (HRR) will likely drop from 57 to 50 percent in the next CBA.
If the league were to soften its stance on some player-contract issues, the players would probably be more willing to agree to a "make whole" amount closer to what the league wants.
The current gap in the "make whole" provision is $182 million over a five-year period, and for the league to get the players closer to the $211 million it proposed for this provision, the owners will need to give a little more in regard to player-contract rights.
Players Must Stop Criticizing Commissioner Gary Bettman
Over the last week, we have seen a few members of the NHLPA go too far in their criticisms of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Florida Panthers forward Kris Versteeg made some inappropriate comments about Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly on TSN radio, and Dave Bolland re-tweeted a tweet sent to him from a fan that was inappropriate as well:
Kris Versteeg tells @tsn1050radio in Toronto that Bettman and Daly are "cancers' that have been "looting this game for far too long".— TEAM Radio (@TEAM1040) November 19, 2012
Several other players also expressed their frustration via Twitter, including Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust:
Gary bettman's autobiography is in stores now. It's titled 'how I destroyed a sport and a nation'— Brandon Prust (@BrandonPrust8) November 21, 2012
Bashing Bettman is not going produce anything positive, and it will only make the commissioner and the owners more committed to breaking the union. How can the NHLPA ask for a willing negotiating partner when it keeps insulting the man who is leading the other side?
The players keep saying they want to play, but they won't be on the ice anytime soon if they keep insulting Bettman.
To Avoid Losing Large Amounts of Revenue, NHL Must Be More Willing to Negotiate
According to Bettman, each day without a new CBA is costing the owners millions of dollars in revenue (via Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal):
Bettman: NHL business is losing $18 million a day.— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) November 21, 2012
For this to change, the league needs to be a better negotiating partner for the players.
The union's latest proposal was a genuine effort to negotiate, and now it's time for the owners to make an equally strong effort.
For the most part, the league has been unwilling to change its position on nearly all of the key issues. The NHL has made some movement toward the players, but it has been minimal.
If Bettman and the owners show more of a desire to negotiate, they will save the season and be able to earn the revenue that the lockout is eliminating.
NHLPA Must Address "Back-Diving Contracts" That Are Already Signed
The NHL is still trying to eliminate the "back-diving contract" that helped teams sign players long term but use a loophole(s) in the salary cap to lower the annual cap hit of the deal.
Not only does the league want to punish teams which have previously signed players to these types of contracts, but it also wants to make it difficult or impossible for teams to sign these deals in the future.
At the moment, the NHLPA is only addressing future contracts (via TSN). For a new CBA to be made soon, the players must help the league get rid of these contracts going forward and address the ones already signed.
NHLPA Needs to Propose a CBA Longer Than 5 Years
For the benefit of everyone, the next CBA has to have a term longer than five years so the NHL can avoid multiple lockouts in a 10-year period.
The NFL and NBA both agreed to long-term CBAs of more than five years with their respective player unions over the last year, and the NHL and NHLPA should follow this example.
This should be a quick decision from both sides, because all parties will be helped by a lengthy period of labor peace in hockey.