Insider: Cause For NHL CBA Optimism?

Is there reason for optimism on the NHL labor front?

Maybe, depending on who you talk to. Tuesday was a big day in and around the NHL, as we all finally heard for the first time from the players, approximately one month after the NHL offered up their view of how the hockey world would operate under a new collective bargaining agreement. And to Donald Fehr, and the players credit, they appear to have thrown the NHL a curve ball. From Aaron Ward of TSN via twitter:

Proposal theme is to partner with the stronger teams in league to help smaller market/struggling teams.In past as revenues go up, cap goes up. Now players share will grow at an artificially slower rate.If revenue grows at least by 7%, owners would keep $465 million.Rev grew at 9% this year and at 10.2% year before which means teams could stand to make double.In essence players are saying,go for it,make money and Grow the game and keep what’s leftover and in the 4th year the Players have the option to revert back to present system at 57%.

It sounds confusing on the surface, and in some sense it really is, but the bottom line is this: the players have shown they want a deal. The players showed in their proposal that they are willing to give back to the owners again. The players, if you will recall, are the ones that gave back to the owners in such a big way during the last lockout. To see them budge at all in terms of hockey related revenue has to be considered somewhat of a surprise.

It was also a surprise that the players did not return the favor of submitting a completely one sided proposal to the NHL and digging their feet into the sand. It was a different approach in negotiating, and to be completely honest, it was refreshing.

Of course, the league could come back, maybe even as soon as today, and put an end to the hopes and dreams of hockey fans everywhere of seeing the season get under way on time, as scheduled. There is one slight issue for the league though that has come to light in a big way as this process has played out, and that is the battle of public relations. We have already seen a situation where the players have said they are willing to continue playing on time, under the old CBA, if both sides are continuing to work on a new CBA and the document in place expires. We can now add the idea that the players are the ones that want to give back to the owners to reach a deal and start the season on time.

At the end of the day, who should get the blame if there is not hockey being played on the first week of October? Based on the circumstances as they exist today, it probably should not be the players. Ultimately, that is a problem for Gary Bettman and NHL owners. Lets also not forget we have had a summer that has seen some awfully expensive contracts get thrown around.  If a deal can not be reached and any part of the season is missed, it is going to be hard for the owners to come out of this looking good.

Which brings us back to today. Today was the real starting point in the CBA negotiations. Both sides know where the other side stands. Both sides have established a starting point. For the first time since the doom and gloom theories started floating about this negotiation process, it feels like there is finally a bit of optimism about the process. Of course, there is still a long way to go before we get to the point of analyzing power plays instead of proposals, but at the end of the day, there is a feeling of hope. A feeling that a resolution could ultimately be on the horizon.

Now, we wait.