"Welcome to Hell, kid."
I think most of us worked really hard to convince ourselves that the way the NHL and the NHLPA dragged their feet on labour negotiations this year might turn out to be a good thing. Maybe, some of us thought, the short turnaround will force them to be reasonable from the outset, so they can come out with a new CBA on time.
Oh. You fools.
Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Montreal has reported five major points from the NHL's first CBA proposal, and you may want to sit down, because I'm gonna give it to you straight. If the owners aren't going to budge from these five points, we are most definitely headed for a lockout:
1. Reduce players' hockey-related revenues to 46% from 57 %.
2. 10 seasons in the NHL before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.
3. Contracts limited to 5 years.
4. No more salary arbitration.
5. Entry-level contract are 5 years long instead of 3.
If these strike you as rigid and terrifying, well, you're not the only one. According to Adam Proteau, an NHL agent told him the proposal was met with immediate pessimism:
But let's hold off on the doom and gloom. This is a first proposal.
These are some ambitious -- nay, marauding -- demands, to be certain, and if the owners are committed to 100% inflexibility, we'll all be trying our hardest to enjoy baseball this fall.
But they aren't. They're negotiating, and as the old maxim goes, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.
Of course they're going to start high. This is a consortium of wealthy businessmen; they didn't get that way by being mousy and charitable. They got that way by being parsimonious and ruthless.
That in mind, you can't blame them for wanting a more owner-friendly CBA, especially with the way salaries have skyrocketed under the last one. That certainly wasn't what they had in mind coming out of the lockout, so you can see why they'd be hellbent on slowing down the league's astronomical rate of inflation this time around.
You'll notice that all 5 points limit the how and when of players cashing in: cutting player salary, delaying unrestricted free agency and the bidding wars therefrom, putting an end to lifetime contracts by mandating a 5-year term cap on deals, nuking salary arbitration, and tacking two more years onto entry-level contracts are all ways to slow stop the players from making more money.
The players won't like that, and they'll make a counter proposal. Maybe they already have. It, too, will be seen by some as unreasonable. That's how this works.
With the information we have, there's no longer any reason to be optimistic that the 2012-13 season will start on time. But there's also no reason to call it just yet. This is just round one.
But hey, that's just me. How about the rest of you? Are you terrified?