The NHL today made a somewhat surprising offer to its players in an attempt to end the lockout and kick-start the 2012-13 season on Nov. 2 -- which would represent approximately a three-week delay from its original Oct. 11 start.
According to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the league is willing to split the Hockey Related Revenue, 50-50, with the players. In its first offer to the players in July, the league sought to share a much smaller percentage, possibly as little as 43 percent, according to how the NHL Players Association deciphered the offer.
The 50-50 share in itself is encouraging, but it is a steep drop from the 57 percent the players have pocketed since the start of the salary cap system that was instituted out of the 2004-05 lockout. So while 50 percent is certainly better than 43 percent, it still represents a substantial drop in hard dollars for the players, considering the league's HRR last season was some $3.3 billion.
It is not likely that union leadership will easily accept the idea of falling back from $1.88 billion (at 57 percent) to $1.65 billion (at 50 percent). Net loss: $230 million.
''I'd like to believe, after we are done [reviewing] this [offer], that it's an excellent starting point and there's a deal to be made,'' said Donald Fehr, the NHLPA executive director.
The NHLPA will spend at least the next few hours, into Tuesday evening, assessing the offer. Bettman and his top lieutenant, Bill Daly, have told Fehr that they are ''on call'' for further deliberations or clarifications.
Left unsaid by both Fehr and Bettman in their media briefings today, is what other changes (if any) the league has made to other crucial elements of its offer. In its initial laundry list of changes, the league sought drastic amendments in the length of entry-level contracts and also wanted to abolish salary arbitration. Initial media reports, including many posted on Twitter, suggested the league has softened many of the proposed changes, but neither Bettman nor Fehr offered details.
Bettman did say the league made a long-term offer but would not specify the number of years. Fehr, though, said the offer was for ''at least'' six years.
According to Bettman, a Nov. 2 start to the season would allow for a full schedule, 82 games, as well as a full playoff format (four rounds, best-of-seven), all of it wrapping up by the end of June 2013.
Bettman also said that a compressed slate of 82 games would necessitate a slight increase in scheduling, meaning that players would play one extra game every five weeks, in comparison to their current rate. If the union were to object to such frequency over a season that lasts some six months, it conceivably would return with an offer to play only a 76-game regular season.