Family trips, the Olympics and even some procrastination on my part have finally come to an end. It is time to talk hockey. But just when things are warming up with some Ovechkin spotting at Kettler with new team mate Mike Ribeiro and the excitement of rookie camp on the horizon, it looks more like a lock out is looming more than pucks hitting the ice.
What is at stake is hundreds of million dollars at stake, especially for smaller market teams. The more someone tries to break it down, the more it sounds like a convoluted public relation war that is similar to full body presidential election with proposals, counter proposals and both sides claiming they are cooking the books. Honestly, if I wanted this game played I will go take in the United States Senate for an hour (if they aren't in a quorum call, then it's just looking at an empty room for an hour).
The basis of the problems comes down to the smaller markets struggling to survive with the current collective bargaining agreement (or widely known as the CBA). The owners won a salary cap with the last lockout in '05-'06. Remember when the Caps drafted the best player ever but couldn't play him? (But it might have been worth it since he stole Rookie of the Year honors from some kid in Pitt)
What was instituted was a salary cap that teams had to abide to that included a ceiling and a floor to give the league more parity. When the ceiling rose, so did the floor. The thinking was when the average league salaries rose, so did the cap window. But as richer teams were able to pay bigger contracts it rose the cap window, thus forcing the teams that were cash strapped to raise their salaries to make it to the league minimum.
Not to mention the crazy contract loop holes some teams with money used to lock up players being signed for 7, 8, 9, 10 years plus. Organizations that were struggling could barely make the league floor, now were forced to take players for longer and longer years for guaranteed money whether they brought in more fans or not. In essence, richer teams actually benefited from the cap window when they could hold their talent for many years for big dollars while poorer teams were a carousal of personnel unable to hold on to draft picks to big year contracts and guaranteed money.
What the league proposes is to attack player salaries, reduce the contract years to just 5. They reworked the RFA rules allowing teams to retain a player for ten years if they so choose. What it means the players would see a reduction in new contracts signed, could only sign for 5 years max, and would not be a unrestricted free agent until they have ten seasons under their belt.
What the union proposes is keep the cap as is, unhinging the cap to the average salaries, allow teams to trade for cash, and ask teams to find reductions in salary from trainers coaches and front offices instead of touching the players money. Both plans are laid out by TSN.ca here.
Some where in that is a compromise both sides can agree to, otherwise the only hockey we will be seeing is HD classics on the NHL network. Does that sound like fun? No, not really. What that common ground is, I am not sure. But despite as far apart the two sides are, both Gary Betteman and Donald Fehr seem to think their side will prevail and their will be a season to be played.
That leaves us with very little to talk about. Until a deal is reached or a compromise made, all we can do is sit and wait as fans. We have no say in the matter, other than if we choose to buy any more tickets. That is the frustrating part. A bunch of millionaires get to decide the fate of a game that we say is for everyone. All we can do is watch the drama show go on.