By now it should be clear that any optimism one can draw from the CBA negotiations will be dashed within days, so it should come as no surprise that, after hearing Gary Bettman crow about a "significant, meaningful step" on Tuesday, Wednesday yielded no more such steps and another massive ideological hurdle.
At the heart of the NHL and NHLPA's disagreement is the issue of hockey-related revenue. Two important questions about HRR will have to be answered before hockey can return.
First: Who gets what?
Second: So, um... what's HRR, anyway?
(It's never a good sign when two sides are still haggling over what, exactly, they're haggling over. Although defining terms is crucial.)
Tuesday's proposal furthered the owners' goals of getting the players down from 57 percent to around the 50 percent mark when it comes to revenues. According to the Associated Press, the NHLPA's share of revenue was to be reduced to 51.6 percent in the deal's first year and 50.5 percent in the second.
But these figures also included a different, less generous definition of HHR, meaning the players would be getting even less than the numbers indicated. From the Sporting News:
That, at least according to Fehr, was not entirely accurate due to league-proposed changes to the definition of hockey-related revenue; the players might be getting 50 percent in the latest proposal, but it would come from a smaller pie.
"Our preference is to keep the same definition of (hockey-related revenue)," Fehr said.
Also, Fehr said, players would pay more in escrow in the early years of the deal, which would essentially function as a salary rollback. The union, according to multiple reports, projects to pay 15-20 percent in escrow off the top of each paycheck, compared to about 8 percent currently. That money is held out to guarantee appropriate division of revenue, then paid back at a later date—assuming the league meets its projections.
The NHLPA is, of course, bullish about maintaining the 57 percent revenue share, but Bettman struck back at their stubbornness Wednesday, saying the players should have no "entitlement" to 57 percent revenues.
I agree. They hardly do anything, really.
"I hope it's clear our intention is to make a deal we hope is fair," Bettman said, to laughter, I assume.
The good news: The players' next counterproposal could come as early as Thursday, so at least things are beginning to move.
When that counterproposal comes, HRR will no doubt continue to be the focal point. Whether or not the players budge off their 57 percent revenue figure or make some concessions about the definition of that revenue should be interesting.