Can a full NHL season be salvaged?
That’s what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was thinking Tuesday morning when he pulled a surprise proposal from his pocket and offered it to the players.
NHL owners have offered players a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue and no rollbacks on current salaries in exchange for the agreement to play a full 82-game season beginning Nov. 2.
“We hope we’ve given our best shot,” Bettman told reporters Tuesday afternoon. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr called the offer an “excellent start” and said he would present the proposal to the union membership in a 5 p.m. conference call.
Bettman’s plan would call for a full 82-game season, with each team adding one game to its schedule every five weeks. Under the old CBA, NHL players received 57 percent of hockey-related revenue.
The players’ most recent proposal allowed for that percentage to fall to 52 percent, but it was based on a 7.1 percent annual growth in league revenue. Bettman’s offer does not account for that same growth and the 50-50 split would be across the board.
While the move by the NHL owners is a significant one, it likely will not result in an immediate agreement and an end to the month-long lockout. Most players have acknowledged privately that they expected to come to a 50-50- split with the owners, but that they want it to be over the course of a six-year agreement, falling to 50 percent in smaller increments.
Fehr is likely to spend the next few hours digesting the owners’ proposal and could craft the outlines of a counter-proposal to present to the union’s 700-plus members.