The NHL lockout is finally over.
After 113 days, the NHL and NHLPA announced that they reached an agreement Sunday morning. Negotiations concluded after 16 hours where the most important issue became pension plans for the players; the same issue that was heavily debated last week, nearly collapsing the whole process and season.
Then a hero emerged.
No it wasn’t Ron Burkle or Mario Lemieux. It wasn’t anyone from the Penguins that was rumored to be saving the season last month before talks broke apart. It was Scot Beckenbaugh.
Beckenbaugh is the Deputy Director of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Services. He is the same person who mediated the NBA lockout last year, saving a half season. On Friday, as negotiations turned volatile for the seemingly 1000th time, Beckenbaugh stepped in and lowered the temperature. He ran back and forth between buildings in New York City to bring the NHL and Player’s Association together for a deal. Less than 72 hours later, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr appeared in front of scores of media members and announced the framework of a deal has been completed.
Among the big issues, the two sides agreed on a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, an MLB-style pension plan, a $64 million salary cap in 2013-2014, and seven year maximum on contract length with a year to year variance limit of 35 percent. The CBA will also be a ten year contract, siding with the owner’s wishes over the PA’s proposal of eight years.
That certainly looks like a more responsible agreement than the one that was signed seven years ago. The CBA in 2006 gave the players 57% of the revenue and, in turn, inflated the salary cap beyond what most teams could afford. That system netted positive dollars for only three NHL teams in 2011. The owners, meanwhile, circumvented the salary cap by giving ridiculously long contracts and backloading the salaries.
This new deal completely erases that option, for now.
In the end, both sides got pieces of what they wanted. The owners will receive more revenue while the players will receive a solid pension.
But what about the fans? They get nothing. Oh sure, they get their sport back but only after it was held hostage by two teams of lawyers. How could they take this long to get a deal done, all the while losing millions of dollars in revenue and concessions? The NHL also lost some fans. Fans that may have just started getting back into hockey after the last lockout.
No need to get too upset over the process, though. The main point: hockey is back. It will be back for ten more years and hopefully a new deal will not be quite as frustrating.
The season is projected to start around January 19th, possibly earlier. It will have no less than 48 games.
Photo courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press