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Fehr has a few issues with the NHL’s new offer

Oct 17, 2012, 11:25 AM EDT

Donald Fehr

Despite the public’s positive reaction and the general renewal of optimism that the NHL’s season may be saved, nobody really expected the NHLPA to fall madly in love with the league’s new offer presented Tuesday that proposed a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue (HRR).

And according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the NHLPA didn’t.

In a letter to the players, union executive director Donald Fehr wrote that the offer “still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights. As you will see, at the 5 per cent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion. What do the owners offer in return?”

That last part has been a rallying cry of sorts for Fehr. “What’s in it for the players?” he’s asked in the past, suggesting it can’t be all concessions by the union.

Fehr’s letter to the players also raises other potential sticking points:

—- How the NHL plans to define HRR. The league wants to “clarify” it. What does that mean?

—- The “make whole” provision by which the NHL will reimburse players currently under contract for whatever they lose in absolute dollars in Year 1 and Year 2 of the agreement. To accomplish that, the players will receive deferred compensation over the remaining years of their contracts and – here’s the key part – the deferred compensation “will be chargeable against” the players’ split of HRR.

Fehr has a problem with that, since all it would mean is “players paying players, not owners paying players. That is, players are ‘made whole’ for reduced salaries in one year by reducing their salaries in later years.”

—- On supplemental discipline, the NHL’s offer to introduce a neutral third-party arbitrator so that players can appeal. Fehr has an issue with the “clearly erroneous” standard of review (i.e. it’s obvious to the arbitrator that Brendan Shanahan made a mistake), which he believes will make it “very unlikely that any decision would be overturned.”

The players could make a counter-proposal later this week — the two sides are meeting Thursday — at which point we’ll know how strongly they feel about the above issues.

Related: Just like that, all the pressure’s on the NHLPA

  1. stakex - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Whats in it for the players? The get to make millions of dollars playing a game, and have absolutely no financial risk in the process. What more should they have? Are we really going to see this think drag on longer because players have to remain RFAs for an extra year, and they might get paid some of their money later rather then sooner?

    I’m starting to think Fehr just gets off on forcing major sports leagues to cancel their season. No deal is going to be perfect for anyone, and the players are lucky the owners are moving as much as thye are. Get the god damn deal done already.

    • capesouth - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      In many ways, I agree with you. A sense of humility and acknowledgement of how lucky everyone involved here is probably would help the situation… but the ‘they are all making millions’ argument isn’t a good one. Almost everyone involved in this situation is rich so nit-picking about how rich they get is not really effective. Yes, some of this may boil down to greed but you don’t just say ‘whatever’ and sign a deal. The devil is in the details. This offer represents progress but just because it is a step in the right direction doesn’t mean the NHLPA should just shut up and sign it. Everyone involved here has worked hard to get where they are so no matter how rich they are, they can’t just sign a proposal and then have to live with it for the next 6 years. There is apparently time to salvage a full season so come back with a meaningful offer and go from there. The PA is going to have to compromise here..

    • rogersjd16 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      Please, if you think this is “a game” and not a life choice and family decision, you clearly don’t understand what it means to be a professional athlete. A hockey player no less.

      It’s not just the %s. The players and Fehr would be fine with 50/50 if there weren’t approx 1,200 other pages of the CBA to agree on. That “make whole” clause is an utter joke. Counting against players’ % of HRR?!? As the column states, that basically means they’re paying themselves. F that. The players didn’t like the escrow option either, but that would be euphoria compared to this.

      I completely agree that Fehr is a hardhead. But let’s not forget that the players are making every single concession here – from losing a year of arbitration, to extra service and age years to qualify for UFA, to shorter entry level contracts to water down the market for second contracts. A complete shift from the owners after initially offering 5 years (close to average hockey career).

      You cannot blame the players for continuing to fight against that troll and his minions.

      • sabatimus - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:43 PM

        I agree with most of this, but at some point there needs to be a resolution. EVERYONE is losing money the longer this goes on. I don’t know how that serves anyone.

  2. buckeye044 - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    If they blindly follow Fehr, there will be no season.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Oct 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      These types of reactions are exactly why the NHL sent out this proposal, to completely flip the pr battle in their favor. To make it look like they’ve made all kinds of concessions and the players are greedily holding up the season. Like everyone else I wanted NHL hockey to start a few weeks ago but the players can’t agree to a deal that simply looks good on the surface but has major underlying issues. There’s a reason Bettman and the owners put out an announcement on their 50/50 proposal a day before releasing all the other details… they want everyone to see that seemingly fair split and get outraged that the union didn’t immediately sign on the dotted line. I am not a fan of Fehr but I also don’t want lengthy restrictions on free agency eligibility. And there are many other issues. The owners want us to think they’re sacrificing SO much with this proposal when they’re really getting everything they wanted, and that’s why they started with such absurd positions (as everyone knows). I want a full 82-game season to start tomorrow but we need to wait and see what the Union’s counter-proposal is and then how the league reacts. These are the true negotiations that should have started two months ago, if not more. It’s not a done deal but this is way more hope than I had at the start of this week. Now it’s up to both sides to make the necessary sacrifices.

  3. bcsteele - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Is it bad that my only issue with this new proposal is the one year teams get to reduce the salary cap hit? For the teams that are over it or near it that is a problem. I know for one that my team, the Blues, have done a fantastic job rebuilding and signing good, fair contracts. They got a lot of cap space to lock up the rest of their core up and comers (namely Alex Peitrangelo), but if this stands the league just cut the room we had in half. I’ve been more on the players side this go around (though I really just want a deal done) but I’d almost rather see a salary roll back (players will never go for it) so the teams can stay competitive. I think they should either hold the cap ceilling, reduce it less than that, or extend the number of years to get under it. I’m not trying to be selfish by using my team as an example, I just know more about my team than any of the others, but you can’t tell me similar situations aren’t going to arise with other teams.

    P.S. If this deal or something similar goes through, what the hell are the Rangers going to do about not only being over the cap at the start of the year…but add Wade Redden’s contract since AHL contracts will count against the cap now.

  4. davemeisner - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    If the players decline this offer, they automatically get on every fans bad side.

    I have never really chosen sides between Fehr and Bettman (mostly because I think they’re both slim balls).

    But if the players “just want to play hockey”, here’s their chance to play hockey. This CBA offer is in line with the NFL and NBA, and Donald Fehr (and the players) would be stupid to just throw in in the trash can.


    • islesjb - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM

      I don’t think they have to accept it outright as is and its understandable for Fehr to come back with one more proposal that aims to obtain a few more benefits for the players. However, I do think that the framework to an agreeable CBA has been laid out by the NHL and if Fehr comes back with a real “Fk you” kind of proposal, negotiations will crumble and the season will be lost.

      If something cannot be worked out by Oct. 25th (deadline for a Nov. 2nd start) then this will be all on Fehr and the players and I would think all fan support of the players would be gone (not that that makes a difference one way or another).


      • davemeisner - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM

        well obviously there is going to be some tweaks in a counter offer (which will hopefully be tomorrow)

        but if Donald shows up to the negotiation table with his middle finger up in the air, kiss this season good-bye.

  5. echech88 - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    Suffice to say, the NHL are PR geniuses. I don’t really care for one side or another, but the idea that they can publicize this offer in a way that makes it look like they’re the ones making concessions is a stroke of public relations genius.

    • jimw81 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      thank frank luntz.

      • echech88 - Oct 18, 2012 at 11:13 AM

        Am I wrong though? Read the comments on this thread.

        Frank Luntz is good at manipulating people who just read headlines and listen to buzzwords and don’t actually see what is really going on.

  6. vindicatus - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Bettman may be a devious, hateful little troll, but Fehr is the Grinch who stole Christmas.

    • williplett - Oct 18, 2012 at 5:05 AM

      You cried like a baby after Parise left. Wonder why you are bagging on the PA?

  7. lopo - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I think it’s funny we get all mad about players making millions playing ‘a game’. It’s not simply ‘a game’, they are playing professional sports, where you spend your entire time training, detached from your family for long periods of time, under intense media and team pressure. They don’t have this job making ‘millions’ forever, if a play is lucky, they play 15-20 years. If they’re smart, they manage that income wisely preparing for the future. Many younger players aren’t that smart.

    Sitting here and putting the players down for not wanting a paycut is ridiculous, because you know what, if you were in their shoes, you’d be resisting it as well.

    Put it in perspective, imagine you have a $60k job under contract and and now you’re being told that you will be paid $55,200 and less the following years, but you were still scheduled to make that $60k/year per your contract. You’d get angry too.

    Before you go out and say the players should manage their money better, I agree, but so should the owners. The owners need to be penalized or at least have controls that prevent them from making huge contracts at the financial detriment of their organization. Sydney has concussion issues and missed most of the previous 2 seasons? There should be some sort of rules in place to prevent a long term high dollar deal such as 12yr/$104.

    • bmscalise - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      Actually – the situation you mention has happened in major corporations (FedEx, for example). The employees were asked to take a pay cut with the promise that there wouldn’t be layoffs. And guess what – they did it. And did it gratefully, even though I’m sure the shareholders weren’t asked for a similar sacrifice. They did it because it was better long-term collectively. At this point, the players should be grown up enough to come to a similar recognition. Hopefully, they will be.

      • dwingsfly - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        The difference here is that league revenues went up by 1.1 billion not down.Why should players subsidize owners who mismanage their teams when owners aren’t helping players who squander their earnings?

      • elvispocomo - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        On top of revenues going up, the league isn’t looking for layoffs as an alternative. Bettman isn’t about to tout contraction as a solution after he’s pushed so hard to expand into non-traditional hockey markets as is. Then there’s the fact he’s doing everything he can, including having the NHL own the team, to prevent the Coyotes from moving to a more viable location.

      • lopo - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:51 PM

        I never said the situation doesn’t exist elsewhere, I was simply pointing out if you were in their shoes with a $60k/yr job, you’d be resistant as well. I used $60k as that’s a number most fans can relate to. We don’t make 2 million per year and as such live like a person making 2 million. No we live near a $60k salary lifestyle. It was simply a comparison….and I did say the players should manage their money better. I think Elvis below is spot on, there isn’t talk of contraction(yet). One could think that players affected could easily find work in other leagues though.

      • hsnepts - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:57 PM

        actually, the shareholders ARE asked for a similar sacrifice. When the stock was tanking, the shareholders were taking the entire hit. by negitiating with the union, they shared the hit between owners and workers, for the greater good of everyone.

        You know, people often wonder why the german economy is so strong. heres one reason: The union leader of every company in germany sits on the board of directors. they are involved in all the high level discussions, and they know the real numbers – they know when the company is in trouble, and when labour costs are prohibitive to corrective restructuring. Unions regularly take pay cuts in germany when its in the best interest of everyone.

    • habsman - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      You make some good points, but remember, player salaries are based on a percentage of total revenue (HRR). The expired CBA allowed for 57% to go to the players. The owners want a 50-50 split which is more in line with the other major sports. If the sport grows, and revenue increases over the next few years, the total salary pool will also grow. In other words, 50% of the revenue down the road will hopefully be worth more than the 57% of today. And lets not forget its the owners who share the greater risk, and greater expense. The players basically play for pay.

      • lordfletcher - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:30 PM


        I can tell you that making 68k a year compared to the pebbles I was making 3 years ago makes a huge difference with everything in my life. If I were to have a pay cut now, nothing would greatly change or anything at all for that matter… but if I was making 30k, a pay cut would put me back in my parents house and eating turkey sandwiches every day.

        so yes, a paycut does matter for what your income is. You are blind if you think otherwise.

      • williplett - Oct 18, 2012 at 5:16 AM

        About one third of NHL owners are billionaires and the rest have hundreds of millions at hand. The sport makes money in the markets where it has thrived in the past and where a market has been successfully built. Not much of a risk…especially if the league had the guts to move the Florida and Phoenix teams to markets that could support an NHL team.

    • lordfletcher - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      to compare a multi millionaires payroll to someone who makes 60k per year, is a far cry of a reality check.

      As I agree making less money per year isn’t an ideal situation but in their shoes, it’s more than fair. If I made 300k per year and my boss said in order to keep my job and contract over the next 5 years I will be forced to take a 28k pay cut (or whatever the number maybe) .. I think my life would go on the same it had before.

      as I understand the point you are trying to make, but let’s be serious for a moment…. 60k compared to 2,000,000.00 ????!

      • bhawksrule - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        I agree, his comparison of a $60k/yr job being reduced to $55,200/yr to a $6mil/yr deal down to $5.3mil/yr is bonkers.

        You realize that person making $60k/year has to work 100 years to make the $6 mill contract a top hockey player gets in 1 year?

      • lordfletcher - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:53 PM

        and in no way am I saying that the players shouldn’t make as much money as they can or are entitled to but you can never compare and athlete’s salary to the common man’s.

        Anyone here if given the chance would swap shoes in an instant. I would rather work out and play hockey for 9 hours a day and all of that jazz compared to sitting in my cubicle office and read PHT and look at TPS reports all day long.

        Bottom line is, the players know they had a great deal, and still do with 50/50, playing a game that most in the upper north america has. Drop the puck and lets get this season started.

      • lopo - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:54 PM

        No, your lifestyle is largely dedicated by your income. So I was simply using the 60k number as some thing that’s more relatable to an average fan. A pay cut is a pay cut no matter the starting point.

      • lordfletcher - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:31 PM

        sorry posted under the wrong reply. double post


        I can tell you that making 68k a year compared to the pebbles I was making 3 years ago makes a huge difference with everything in my life. If I were to have a pay cut now, nothing would greatly change or anything at all for that matter… but if I was making 30k, a pay cut would put me back in my parents house and eating turkey sandwiches every day.

        so yes, a paycut does matter for what your income is. You are blind if you think otherwise.

      • lordfletcher - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        and I think I am taking your posts a bit out of context (now that I am reading them more carefully) sorry for any overlap.

    • desertfan - Oct 17, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      Keep in mind that the average length of an NHL career is LESS than 4 seasons so take that 4 X $2M less the 40% tax = $4.8M and then average it over 30-40 years of work. Not a lot of money!!!

    • montrealais - Oct 18, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      Yes but el Syd is and was getting paid thru his ordeal. And don’t forget the players will make up any lost income (and more) as the HRR increases. Even if some fans stay away, the HRR will increase cause jersey prices will go up. Ticket prices will go up. TV deals will go up. Even two steamies avec Poutine at the Bell Centre will go up. And that they must share.

  8. sjsharks66 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    The NHL wanted another proposal from the NHLPA. They were not giving them one. Now the NHL got wise and decided to make a decent deal that would give us all an entire season, but at the same time giving the bad press to the players.

    You waited to long for your proposal NHLPA. You should have given them one sooner and now they beat you too it.

    If the players wanted to play hockey, they would accept. Maybe tweak one or two things. If they don’t, then I can’t really be on their side. The entire “lets not buy stuff from NHL” will be a part of my agenda.

  9. habsman - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Dear Donald,

    Player salaries are going to be reduced. You know it, I know it, the owners know it, and every hockey fan who’s paying attention knows it. The question is, are you going to sign this new offer, with some minor “tweeks,” or are you going to continue to call the owners “bluff”?

    The 57% of the revenue that your PA collected from the old CBA is out of line with the other major sports, and is untennable for the owners. The ball is clearly in your court Don, and we’re all watching.

    • rogersjd16 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      The revenues are out of line with other major sports as well. Only NBA is somewhat close, and its television contracts dwarf the NHL’s (though the gap is closing). Just because the %s don’t match doesn’t mean the CBAs and share of revenues are even close to similar.

      • habsman - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        I agree, there is no way the average hockey player, and the average basketball player are going to be compensated equally based on a 50-50 revenue split. The basketball player is drawing from a much larger revenue pie.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:28 PM

        The NHL is also behind the NBA on television ratings as well. Hockey is a nitche sport in the US. Therefore they should be compensated as such.

  10. raiderufan - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    I don’t get the fear of optimism on the player side.

    It seems like they are so afraid to look like they just wanna play that they are gonna sabotage themselves.

    I’m fully confident that the proposal wasn’t perfect….but would it kill Fehr to say “listen, it’s not perfect, but it’s a MAJOR step and let’s get to work”? .

    It’s a much larger effort to fix this thing than he/the union has made at any point in this whole thing and the only reply is the negative.

    I just want this to end.

  11. furkmyster - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    The players need something to save face for taking less money. Last CBA, they took a major cut, but got significantly faster UFA freedom. The deal has to be fair for both sides, otherwise the constant take take take is going to lead to top players staying in Europe. I am sure Caps fans would be very devastated if Ovie and Backstrom don’t come back.

    I think for the 50-50 slice, reduced UFA qualification has to be part of it, or road perks of some sort for the travel.

    • dwingsfly - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      I feel that if the NHL wants to go with a 50/50 split the owners should be the ones to share their revenue with teams that might be losing money.

      • elvispocomo - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        That has been what the NHLPA proposed early on, they’d work their percentage down over time so long as money they were giving up was going towards increased revenue sharing for the teams in trouble.

  12. jimw81 - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    Funny how league sat around for so long waiting for NHLPA to give in to demands & finally make negotiable offer then tell players they have basically 1 week to accept or “will result in cancelation of signature events.”

  13. id4joey - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    What constitutes HRR? 50/50 split of what?

  14. ballistictrajectory - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    What’s in it for the players? How about a job…

  15. bhawksrule - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    If there’s no hockey in 2012-13 season, it’s completely on Donald Fehr.

  16. martysbetter - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    What’s in it for the players?
    How about a league to play for?
    You know, a job?

    These clowns need to count their blessings, don’t give me the sob story about how hard it is to be a professional athlete, because I’m not hearing it – that’s the life they chose and they make more money doing it than any working stiff could ever dream of.

    Don’t like it?
    Go play somewhere else – not good enough?
    Find a real job.

  17. barkar942 - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Screw it all! Just let the players stay playing in the German league and the English league and the NHL wannabe KHL with their 1952 planes and busses. See how many years the players all want to keep that up!

  18. rabidbillsfan - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    I’m not on either side, unless there is a side that is a “I’m not on either side, I just want hockey” side. I understand the Pro’s and Con’s of supporting the Players or Owners, but the ultimate reality is, a 50/50 split is the best for both sides. Look at it this way… Fehr shoots it down, it’s hard to imagine a deal coming anytime except, possibly, in time for the calssic because Fehr violated the “Bargain in good faith” un-written rule, so Bettman and the owners will just drag their feet from there on out. The Owners will try and smoke the players out, the Players won’t budge until that figure goes up. The season will probably be lost if this progress falls through. So, after that mumbo jumbo, where is NHL intrest in 2013? Surely it won’t be any where near what it has been the last 2-3 years, factor in the lost dollars from the year before, and the players would need to start around 58-60% to recoup what was lost by the last season, not just in terms of paychecks, but the overall pie that was sliced due to people saying FU and going elsewhere. The owners will “Win”,there is no 2 ways around it. They own an arena that can host many other events besides hockey games, they have sizeable secondary income avenues, with almost 0 risk. Players have to play in foreign leagues, at half salaries and the risk of being serioulsy injured just to keep the cash flow coming. I’ll admit, my post may be a bit hard to read, but I hope everybody gets my message. Fehr needs to realize he is hurting his clients more by being stubborn and holding out for the “Best Deal”, There will be no “best deal”, tweak this one and take the money and run. It’s professional sports, the pie will grow bigger every year, fans are just flocks of sheep, right?

  19. cspsrbums - Oct 17, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    What I am hearing is it ok for the players to not want a pay cut and resist maybe even hold out because they have a contract and owners should honor it? Well I am a firefighter in the DC area and we were under contract for raises over the last three years but the county government was broke. Well guess what they didn’t honor our contracts and ended up putting us on furlough for two years. They didn’t reduce or pay they increased our insurance so we payed more towards it. I don’t think my job is a game but hockey is. The economy sucked at that time so we had to bight the bullet or find a new job. So I think the players can and will have to take a pay cut in order to keep the NHL government afloat so it can continue to give jobs to these players so they can play their game yes Game. Players take your cut don’t get killed in it and sign the papers most of us had to do it over the last few years

  20. stangz11 - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    I wish the players would come at this from a different perspective. We hear Fehr say that they would lose $1.6 billion on this offer. Truth is, you really aren’t losing anything. Nobody’s earned that money. That money doesn’t exist yet. Are you losing anything now? Nope. Will you be losing anything later on? Yes, but you never had that money to begin with. It won’t affect your players at all.

    On top of that, he has to accept that the players got a tremendous deal last time around when they negotiated 57% of HRR. Accounting for 5% growth over the next six years the number the players would receive under the 57% mark would be huge. Therefore, any reduction the owners try implement (even a perfectly reasonable 7% reduction to 50-50) is going to look massive on paper. It’s time to accept that the perfect world the players live in now can’t continue if the league wants to continue expanding and growing.

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