The National Hockey League (NHL) season did not start as scheduled on October 11, 2012, because of ongoing labor contract negotiations and the league's decision to lockout its players.  The NHL rekindled hope for a 2012-2013 season when it made an unexpected counter-proposal to the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) and its players. The League’s latest proposal was highlighted by a proposed 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue between owners and players and a complete 82 regular season schedule that would begin on November 2nd.

In a surprising move, the NHL has published the documents it gave to the NHLPA as part of its latest proposal. The initial document contains a 10-point offer to the players and the second contains a through explanation of the proposal. (See the full text of both documents at www.nhl.com.)

In addition to the proposed 50-50 revenue split, other highlights of the proposal include:

  • A six-year proposal (with an option for a seventh year);
  • A salary cap of $59.9 million for the 2012-2013 season with an exception for the first year of the agreement that allows teams to spend $70.2 million;
  • A new rule that would allow teams to retain a portion of a player’s salary in trades;
  • The reduction of entry-level contracts to two years;
  • A limitation on contract terms to five years and a stipulation that the average annual value of the years of the contract can only vary by a maximum of 5 percent;
  • An annual revenue-sharing pool of $200 million, 50 percent of which will come from the League’s 10 wealthiest teams. The League will create a committee, which will include the NHLPA, to determine how the money will be distributed; and
  • The introduction of a “neutral” third-party arbitrator to handle appeals on discipline, with a “clearly erroneous” standard of review.

While some players expressed cautious optimism about the NHL’s latest proposal, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr was less than enthusiastic. In a letter to NHLPA members and agents, Fehr stated, “Simply put, the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights.” Fehr continued with a cautionary message to his players, “at the five percent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion.”

The NHL lockout began on September 16th when the League locked out players due to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. The regular season schedule has already been canceled through October 24th. For the League to maintain its regular 82-game season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has proposed that the regular season begin on November 2nd, with each team only required to play one additional game every five weeks during the season.

We will provide updates on further developments.