Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Pins and needles

Nobody now knows what's going to happen.

Late last night, last-ditch talks to end the NHL lockout seemed to have reached a breakthrough. The National Hockey League owners agreed to abandon their idea of 'cost certainty'; of linking revenues to salaries. NHL players agreed to accept the idea of a salary cap in some form. Apparently, the players gave the league a proposal for a collective bargaining agreement including a 52 million dollar cap. The league responded today with another of their famous 'final offers', this time proposing a 42.5 million dollar cap.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has a press conference tomorrow at 1 PM. The players have until 11 AM, two hours before Bettman steps up to the microphones, to accept the league's proposal. If they accept it, than Bettman announces it at 1. If they don't, then he announces that the NHL season is cancelled.

If the players do accept the proposal, the league plays a 28-game schedule, followed by a full playoffs. Presumably that means each team would play two games, one home and one away, against every team in their conference.

At the moment, nothing else seems certain. A lot of questions, that's all we've got. Would the new CBA fix the sport? Could a 28-game season have any credibility in the context of the modern NHL? How long will teams have to fix their rosters, sign players, and hold training camps?

I'm wondering what prompted the NHL to back off their 'cost certainty' fixation. Did they accept the fact that the players weren't going to move? Or did they think that the union had been given enough of a check? Rumours suggest that union head Bob Goodenow was insulted by players during a weekend conference call;that he was sidelined from the negotiation process after player Trevor Linden arranged for his own negotiations. Did these things really happen? If so, were they what Bettman was really after?

As usual: Wait and see. Wait and see. But this time, there won't be too long to wait.

While waiting, go here to check out Spector's take on developments. And go over here to read the letter from Bettman to Goodenow.

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