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About the NHLPA’s ‘fines over suspensions’ angle in CBA talks

Greg Wyshynski
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The NHL and the NHLPA are negotiating on a great many things during the lockout, including what the League's disciplinary system is going to look like, going forward.

On Wednesday, CSNNE reported that the Players Association "is angling toward allowing the NHL to fine players much more than $2,500 for on-ice infractions" in an effort to reduce the one or two-game suspensions handed out strictly for the financial hit against the players' salaries. Non-repeat offenders lose salary based on the number of days in the season (which was 185 last season).

According to an NHL source close to the CBA talks, the NHLPA has asked for larger fines — but not substantially above the current levels.

[More: Ten things you didn't know about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman]

The NHL, meanwhile, has argued for larger financial penalties for players in situations where a fine would have sufficed rather than a suspension — say, like, half of a players' salary for a single game.

So it's the NHL asking to raise the cap on fines significantly, and the NHLPA balking at its request, according to the source.

But that's not the only aspect of supplemental discipline they're debating.

There have also been discussions regarding "benchmark" suspension levels for specific infractions; i.e. if a repeat offender elbows an opponent in the head, there would be a predetermined number of games as a minimum suspension.

The NHLPA wants to take some of the subjectivity, and its view inconsistency, from Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety. The NHL argues that given all the variables that go into a suspension — comparable offenses, context within a game, history of a player's reckless actions — the "benchmarks" would lead to more claims of inequity in the system.

Finally, as CSNNE also reported, the NHLPA is seeking to alter the appeals process, which currently has NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as the sole arbitrator on the punishments determined by the man he hired to hand them out. Which, as you might imagine, is problematic.

The Players Association is seeking a more independent appellate mediator or arbitration panel for grievances.

One potential pitfall here, if Bettman's no longer the last word in suspensiosn: That every one over a certain length — say, five games — will automatically be appealed by the NHLPA, clogging up what's been an efficient supplemental discipline system.

The Players would likely argue that "equitable" trumps "efficient."

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