At 4:40 a.m. on Sunday, January 6, 2013, the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association reached a verbal agreement on the framework of a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
- The new agreement is the product of a 10-day flurry of negotiations that began with a comprehensive proposal from the league on Friday, December 28, 2012. Prior to that, there had been no negotiations between the parties since Thursday, December 6, 2012.
- The parties met in person at league offices on New Year’s Eve, where the NHLPA presented a comprehensive counterproposal to the league.
- From that point on, representatives of the NHL and NHLPA met off and on for the remainder of the week.
- On January 3, 2013, it became known that the Deputy Director of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, Scot Beckenbaugh, was assisting the parties with negotiations and was spending parts of the day meeting separately with the league and the NHLPA. According to both Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, Beckenbaugh played a major role in the negotiations and worked with both sides for five days as they moved closer to a deal.
- After negotiations stumbled on the subject of the second-year salary cap figure following a lengthy face-to-face session Wednesday, Beckenbaugh diffused tension between the league and the NHLPA during a series of separate meetings on Thursday, January 3, 2013 and Friday, January 4, 2013.
- Beckenbaugh brought the parties together again during the afternoon of Saturday, January 5, 2013, and after a marathon negotiating session at a New York City hotel that went into the next morning, Bettman and Fehr announced an agreement in principle shortly after 6 a.m. on Sunday, January 6, 2013.
The parties were exchanging proposals that were over 250 pages, so the parties still must reach agreement on the exact language of the new collective bargaining agreement. The members of the NHLPA must still ratify the new collective bargaining agreement and the NHL Board of Governors must also approve the agreement before the deal is finalized. The Board of Governors is expected to meet Wednesday, January 9, 2013 to vote on the new agreement.
The final flurry of negotiations started under the threat of the NHLPA filing a “disclaimer of interest,” which would have terminated its ability to represent NHL players in collective bargaining negotiations with the league and paved the way for players to commence antitrust litigation against the owners. In voting that concluded on Friday, December 21, 2012, approximately 97 percent of players authorized the union to file the disclaimer of interest up to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. However, negotiations between the parties on January 2, 2013 continued past midnight without the NHLPA filing a disclaimer of interest with the league.
Terms of New Contract
According to multiple reports, the new agreement is for 10 years, with both the league and the union having an option to opt out after eight years. Some terms of the agreement that have been made public include:
- A seven-year limit on new player contracts, except teams may re-sign their own players to an eight-year agreement. At one point, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly once called a five-year limit on player contracts “a hill we will die on.”
- Reduction of the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent in the last contract to 50 percent under the new agreement.
- A salary cap of $60 million for this season, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period, with a floor of $44 million.
- A salary cap of $64.3 for the 2013-14 season with the floor resting at $44 million.
- To be able to meet the reduced cap number in 2013-14, each team will be allowed the option of two compliance buyouts before the start of that season, but not before June 2013. The buyout money would not count against the salary cap of the team buying out the player, but it would count against the players’ share of hockey-related revenue.
- A salary variance of no more than 35 percent from one year to the next in a player’s contract, and no year may be less than 50 percent of the highest year. This will prevent players and teams from adding low salary years at the end of a contract to lower the average salary and the impact on the salary cap.
- A change in the draft lottery that will allow all 14 teams that missed the playoffs a chance to be awarded the first pick overall in the entry draft. Previously, only the five bottom teams had a chance to win the first overall pick in the draft in the lottery.
The league has already canceled all regular-season games through Monday, January 14, 2013. The league has not yet announced the start date of the season or the number of games each team will play.
It is believed the parties are aiming for either a 48- or 50-game season. A 50-game season would start on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 and a 48-game season would start on Saturday, January 19, 2013. The start of the season will depend on how quickly the new deal is finalized, ratified by the players, and approved by the owners.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are now expected to stretch into the end of June to accommodate the delayed start of the compressed season.
While NHL players were prepared to make concessions to the owners in these negotiations, the lockout will likely cost the players 40 percent of their 2012-13 salary. With an average player salary of $2.4 million, the average player lost close to $1 million this year. The average length of an NHL career is just over three seasons, so many of the NHL players lost 14 percent of his entire NHL career. The owners may have lost some revenue over the course of this lockout, and fans may have lost some enjoyment by missing part of the season, but many of the players represented by the NHLPA have lost a significant part of their NHL careers — and they will never be able to recover that lost time in the league.
Now that there is a tentative agreement in place, we are all waiting for the players and owners to get together and yell: “GAME ON!”