Star-studded NHL cast stakes their ground in labour dispute | Hockey | CBC Sports

NHLStar-studded NHL cast stakes their ground in labour dispute

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 | 07:28 PM

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Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby was loath to even mention the word lockout Tuesday as he was on hand to support the NHLPA's first official proposal. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby was loath to even mention the word lockout Tuesday as he was on hand to support the NHLPA's first official proposal. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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Sidney Crosby said Tuesday that it's a bit early to be talking about the real possibility of an NHL lockout, but the players put forth a first proposal that didn't cede to anything the owners proferred one month ago.

The star power on display Tuesday was something we have not seen as much in past labour battles between the NHL and NHLPA.

But there were Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jason Spezza, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Cammalleri and P.K.Subban sprinkled in among the 23-player group that surrounded NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr on Tuesday.

Fehr and the players presented NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners the union's idea of labour peace, five weeks after the NHL issued its first proposal.

We didn't have to wait for the players to respond to gauge their thoughts on the NHL's opening salvo last month. It was evident the NHL decided to travel down an extreme path that the players would not want to follow.

To recap, the league not only asked the players to reduce their share of revenue to 46 per cent from 57 per cent, but to rollback their salaries 24 per cent like they did in 2004-05, cap the length of contracts at five years, and make a player wait until his 10th season before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Even the most ardent pro-ownership supporters knew these were eyebrow-raising measures. The league has enjoyed seven consecutive years of growth since the 2004-05 lockout, seen seven different teams win the Stanley Cup, and watched the Minnesota Wild lasso free agents like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this summer. The commissioner's salary also more than doubled to $7.9 million US during this period.

The players' response on Tuesday was an intriguing proposal. It exhibited they didn't have much appetite to concede to the owner's first proposal and now we'll see what the league's response will be in the days to come.

Fehr didn't share all the details of his side's proposal. But the main point he outlined with reporters was the players were willing to slow the growth of their salaries over the next three seasons in the hopes that the money saved by the owners will be employed in a meaningful revenue sharing system.

So in the first year, salaries can only increase two per cent from the $1.87 billion in total payroll in 2011-12, by four per cent the second year and by six per cent in the third year. In the fourth season, the players want the option to revert to the old system.

Fehr speculated that the NHLPA's proposal could save the league $465 million in three years if the league continues to experience the same growth it has in recent seasons. As part of the plan, the players have devised a revenue sharing plan that could expand the money available to $250 million for troubled teams.

"Don says it addresses the issues that the league has with teams and making sure as players we do our part to help those teams out but also holding teams accountable to doing that," Crosby said.

"At end of the day it's going to take both to do that and that's what our proposal shows."

Will the owners, however, feel the same way about this plan? If this is something that at least kickstarts negotiations in a positive direction, maybe the lockout won't be as long as it appears at this point in the summer.

We have a month to go before the current collective agreement expires on Sept. 15 and eight weeks before 2012-13 NHL season is set to open on Oct. 11.

"I think it's a little too early for that," Crosby said, when asked about the possibility of a third lockout in less than two decades.

"It's a first proposal and this is a little bit of a new direction. We'll see as time goes on. As soon as you hear that word and hear Gary talk about it, you think more about it. Like I said it's still kind of early to get caught up in it."

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