Let the negotiations begin

NHL owners tabled the first significant proposal on Wednesday since the league officially locked its players out on September 15. The proposal calls for a 50–50 split of hockey-related revenue; this is a 5% shift from the owner’s previous offer. Also included in the proposal is a proviso that eliminates the need for a rollback and instead places the reduced players’ share into an escrow account that is to be paid back over time as league revenue grows.

The owners set a nine-day deadline on the response to the proposal, with an eye to salvaging a full 82-game season. If a resolution is reached in time, training camps will open in the final week of October, followed shortly by the start of the regular season on November 2.

The NHL Players’ Association countered with three proposals of their own on Friday afternoon, each with a different means of reaching the 50–50 mark. The third proposal expects that owners maintain current player salaries negotiated in good faith.

None of the proposals created a resolution; in the eyes of some players and owners, they are a step backwards. Posturing aside, it is important to note that for the first time since the lockout was made official, both the NHL and the PA are discussing a 50–50 split. There is still work to be done, but this development represents a start, if nothing more.

Underlying these negotiations is the economic state of the NHL. Though they have reported record growth in the seven years following the last CBA in 2005, more than half of the league’s franchises are losing money, according to Forbes’ 2012 valuation of NHL franchises.

When asked for comment, fans were overwhelmingly positive. “This process has been long and drawn-out, so it was nice to see the owners take a step towards reaching a resolution with this proposal,” said Moiz Badar, an economics graduate.

Although the process is still far from complete, Moiz is optimistic that there will be hockey this season. “Both sides want to play hockey, and a full 82-game schedule is obviously very attractive for both sides,” he says. “With that in mind, I believe they can come to an agreement by the November 2 deadline.”

What will come of the deadline is still unknown, but for now, at least, there appears to be reason for hope that the NHL season may be salvaged.

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