NHL releases details of proposal to players' union

Published Oct. 17, 2012 2:14 p.m. ET

The NHL, in a rare display of candor, released the full terms of the contract proposal it had made to the players association on Tuesday. The detailed proposal, made available Wednesday on the league’s website, includes a Oct. 25 deadline for an agreement to be reached to preserve a full season.

The league's proposal also includes a warning: “Delay (beyond October 25) will necessarily leave us with an abbreviated season and will require the cancellation of signature NHL events,” it reads, undoubtedly referring to the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.

“Failure to reach a prompt agreement will also have other significant and detrimental impacts on our fans, the game, our clubs, our business and the communities in which we play. All of this will obviously necessitate changes to this offer in the event we are unsuccessful in saving a full season.”

Another interesting provision: The Ducks would become eligible for revenue sharing. They were ineligible under the previous agreement because they were considered part of the Los Angeles market. The New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils would become eligible as well.

Releasing the full proposal was a smart move by the league on several fronts.

First, the NHL took control of the situation on Tuesday by making an offer before the NHL Players Assn. could make one. That left Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHLPA, in an awkward position during a news conference on Tuesday because he and the players hadn't had a chance to fully read and discuss all the terms.

Then, by publicizing the entire offer, the league cleared up any possible confusion over various provisions. That was helpful to everyone involved because initial reports had differed on various parts of the proposal, such as the length of entry-level contracts, whether the league intends to change the definition of the hockey-related revenues it shares with players -- it says it wants to clarify the definitions but not change them -- and over the mechanism for salary arbitration, which will remain part of the process

This doesn’t make the offer any better or worse for players, just more transparent. Players are still mulling it over and have not yet responded to the league. Their formal response is likely to be made on Thursday.

The NHLPA hasn’t released a formal response to the league’s proposal, but executive director Donald Fehr told players in a letter that the proposal represents “very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners.”

Canada’s TSN Network reported that Fehr called the proposal an improvement over the NHL’s previous offers but cautioned players that it still included many unfavorable elements.

“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 said in the letter. “As you will see, at the five percent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion. What do the owners offer in return?”

He added, “We do not yet know whether this proposal is a serious attempt to negotiate an agreement, or just another step down the road. The next several days will be, in large part, an effort to discover the answer to that question.”]

-Helene Elliott