The following note has been sent to the 30,688 Members of the NHL Fans’ Association

17 Aug

Welcome to our 134 new Members from the United States, Canada, Slovakia, Malta and Australia.

We are witnessing, again, two groups of greedy and ungrateful spoiled brats at war.

Two parties are fighting over the money we, the fans, annually dump into their laps for the luxury of watching the highest level of hockey on the planet.

The economic divide has been established between the NHL and the NHLPA in the latest round of collective bargaining. Both sides are content with maintaining a salary cap and revenue sharing system, however, the league is pushing the players to accept 43% of hockey related revenues (HRR), down significantly from the current 57% the players collectively earn each season. The players’ counter proposal calls for “delinking” the HRR from the salary cap. This alternative to the floating amount of income would see a fixed rate of growth for the players’ share over the next three seasons. In season one, the fixed increase towards the players’ financial share would increase by 2%; in year two increase by 4%; and, in year three increase by 6%. In year four, the players propose they hold an option to revert back to the full 57% against the floating or sliding increases/decreases in HRR.

Both proposals (NHL and NHLPA) contain additional, less contentious proposed terms, but let’s focus on revenue sharing and some other new ideas.

Both proposals are ridiculous. The league’s proposal goes too far, calling for a massive rollback in players’ salaries, equal to more than 24% of the players’ existing share of HRR. The players’ proposal is just as silly. It does not go far enough and is a temporary business solution that leaves owners with a cloudy financial future, and possibly nothing gained in year four and beyond.

It’s no surprise that both parties’ are playing a typical bargaining game, but let’s remember this is only the pregame warm-up and a few lightweights are posturing at the red line. These are the early days in the negotiations. The third period is September 10-15 and overtime is beyond that point.

For those of us sitting squarely on the fence, I believe a reasonable solution exists.

Both parties should agree to roll back salaries, to a level that is acceptable in the professional sports sector. To be fair to both sides, the players’ share of HRR should gradually roll back to a 50-50 spilt with owners. Each year, beginning this season, the players’ share of HRR should be reduced by 1%. After six years, the 50-50 split would be achieved. The players would barely notice the financial pain and the owners would be assured of greater gains in a few short years.

For the sake of all stakeholders in the game, especially the fans, the length of the new CBA should be 10 years.

The idea floating around about allowing teams to trade cap space is a good idea. It allows those clubs close to challenging for the Cup to make a push and rewards frugal clubs, who are perennially under the cap limit, to restock in other ways. It also increases player movement, which has been steadily declining over the years.

Penalties and fines for serious on-ice infractions should be determined by a third party group comprised of a player representative, a league representative and three elected fans (paid a per diem for their services). A league official (currently Brendan Shanahan) overseeing these duties does not foster a strong partnership between the league and players.

The fans, who are the primary stakeholders in the game, need a voice in the direction of the NHL. Rule committees need fan representation. It is time for the league and players to recognize that intelligent, unbiased fans exist and can contribute nicely to the game. The battling parties need to do something significant for the fans during these negotiations.

Let’s hope the greedy and ungrateful spoiled brats embattled before us come to their senses before overtime begins.

Jim Boone

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