Thursday, December 1, 2011

The NHL CBA - A Very Long Series of Articles - Part 1

NBA fans and NHL fans have always had a kind of rivalry. Whereas baseball and football seasons have minor overlap, people don't often identify themselves by not liking the other sport. However, NBA and NHL fans tend to look down on one another - their seasons run concurrently, and in my experience, you will rarely meet a passionate NBA or NHL fan who also has a serious passion for the other sport. There's only so much time in the day for professional sports.

For the past few weeks, if you're like me, you've been enjoying a few chuckles at the NBA's expense watching the league circle the drain and nearly throw away the season. Schadenfreude isn't mankind's noblest feeling, but if you've heard years of jokes from smug fans weaned on SportsCenter about how no one likes the NHL, it might tickle you to hear that that sport might miss a season. You might've been looking forward to sports-starved NBA fans learning how to pronounce David Krejci. All that is over with now that the NBA and NBAPA has settled their differences - they have a new collective bargaining agreement, with the league set to begin in less than a month.

Thus, my glee turns to dread as I remember that the NHL's CBA expires in September of next year. We've seen both the NFL and NBA lock out, and I'm virtually certain that the NHL owners will once again lock out the players. Furthermore, unlike the NFL and NBA whose CBA expiration dates were well in advance of the beginning of the season, the NHL's CBA expires less than a month before regular season games are scheduled. If the two sides cannot agree to a new CBA before that time, we're going to see at the very least another shortened regular season.

So far, there's yet to be much saber-rattling. Larry Brooks commented in his November 13th Slap Shots column: "A high-ranking executive of one of the league’s most successful clubs on and off ice matter-of-factly told Slap Shots during the course of a conversation about something else entirely this week that the players, “will get 48 to 50 percent, and there will be a rollback” in the next CBA as if it is a fait accompli and [NHLPA president Donald] Fehr doesn’t exist." '48 to 50 percent' refers to the revenue split between owners and players as enforced by the salary cap. At present, the NHL players receive 57% of the revenue. Doing a little basic math, this means that the salary cap and likely NHL salaries would be rolled back by between 10 and 15%. Now we know that Larry Brooks is an NHLPA shill, as we'll see in the coming months, but I can recall him breaking the news during the summer of 2004 (at least to me) that the NHL was prepared to offer the NHLPA a $32 million salary cap. This seemed totally bonkers, since there were many teams spending upwards of $50 million on player salaries in the 2003-04 season. Yet when the dust settled, the salary cap was $39 million and the players were earning three-quarters of their 2003-04 salaries. Brooks will attempt to spread fear and panic, but his sources are generally good.

Between the salary cap machinations of the Devils in 2006, the Malakhov fiasco, and the Kovalchuk circumvention, I've gotten to know my way around the current NHL CBA pretty well. Furthermore, as a former philosophy student, I think I've trained myself to plow my way through jargon into what the hell a thing is actually saying. I will also be looking at the other three major team sports' CBAs, since they all ratified one this year, seeing what the NHL and NHLPA should look into and what they should shy away from. I'll focus more on the NBA CBA as that sport seems to share a similar mindset and similar problems and will be discussing issues related to:

- The Salary Cap and Salary Floor
- The Revenue Split
- Revenue Sharing
- Free Agency and Contract Length
- Entry Level Contracts
- Escrow, Escrow, Escrow!
- Guaranteed Contracts
- Other Stuff TBD!

I will also be discussing some of the 'unintended consequences' of the present CBA and how those issues might be resolved in a new CBA. I don't have a lot of faith in either the Players' Association or the owners, but I'm hoping that like the NBA, everyone can return to their senses long enough to at least get a season played.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to this. Shame that the business aspect of sports is about to take over the sports aspect once again...