Gary Bettman Denies NHL Is Attempting to Renegotiate CBA After July Agreement

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2020

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to members of the media , Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is not pleased that some believe the league asked its players to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement that was reached in July.

"We've been absolutely unequivocal with the players that we are not trying to renegotiate," he said at the Sports Business Journal's "Dealmakers in Sport" panel on Wednesday, per Emily Kaplan of ESPN.

Kaplan noted some members of the National Hockey League Players' Association said in November that they were "blindsided" when asked to renegotiate on things such as deferred compensation and changes to the escrow cap.

Bettman called it "unfortunate and inaccurate" that some conversations with the NHLPA were portrayed that way.

Kaplan explained the two sides agreed to a four-year extension to the CBA as it finalized its return-to-play plans for the 2019-20 campaign, which was suspended in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league eventually restarted play with 24 teams and played Stanley Cup qualifiers, round-robin games and the playoffs in bubble-like environments in Toronto and Edmonton. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup Final over the Dallas Stars.

The current discussions, which Kaplan pointed out have "stalled" with owners looking for more money because of the expected losses from the pandemic and playing without fans in arenas, are largely about starting the 2020-21 campaign.

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"Under our deal, and the one we've had for more than a decade with the players' association, whatever the revenues are, the players only get 50 percent," Bettman said. "And if we overpay them and they don't pay us back in the short term, they have to pay us back over time. There will be stressors on that system and we've had discussions about what those stresses are and how they might be dealt with, but we're not trying to say, 'You must do X, Y and Z.' We're trying to look for a way to continue to work together."

Bettman would not fully commit to a Jan. 1 start date, pointing to a second wave of COVID-19 and a remaining uncertainty about how the holiday season will impact the number of positive tests across the United States and Canada. 

In October, Bettman said he hoped there would be a full 82-game season in 2020-21.