NHL and NHLPA are going to need a bigger boat to save the season

Gary Bettman has his hands full with trying to start a new season during a pandemic. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, fans in the stands may be more wishful thinking than reality.

The NHL is a ticket based league and relies heavily on fans to survive. That’s why the NHL and its owners are asking for the players to make more concessions than what they agreed to in July with the new CBA.

The threat of cancelling the NHL season

At this time, Bettman isn’t acting like the mayor in Jaws ignoring the problem. He hasn’t yet said, “The NHL is a ticket revenue based league. We need ticket based revenue dollars.” And Donald Fehr isn’t acting like Chief Brody by saying, “That doesn’t mean we have to serve the players’ salaries up as smorgasbord.”

However you can hear the slow and methodical sound of John Williams Jaws score in the background. The threat of the shark or in this case the cancellation of the season is coming closer to shore.

Where we are at

Initially it was reported that the NHL asked its players to defer another 13% of their salary. This is on top of what they already agreed to and would bring the total to 62% of pay for next season. And if that wasn’t enough the NHL wants to raise the escrow percentages which is a huge sticking point for players.

Elliotte Friedman reported that the league made two proposals. One was to change deferred pay for next season only to 20% with escrow at 25%, the other proposal asked for 26% deferral for next season and raising the escrow up to 9% by the end of the CBA.

Note: Players agreed to 10% deferral for next season with a escrow lowered to 6% in the final years of the agreed to CBA.

Simply put, the players are angry and do not want any more changes to escrow. Word from inside the NHLPA has that basically as a non starter.

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“Smile you son of a b…”

nhl season start date
Smile you son of a… (Universal Pictures)

Just like the shark in Jaws, someone is going to have to bite the proverbial bullet. The NHLPA is expected to come back with a counter. A few in the hockey world believe they may agree to a larger salary deferral to get next season in and started as close to January 1 as possible.

For the players, deferrals are easier to live with because once the NHL (and the world) are healthy again, they’ll get that money back. For the league they need to agree to a deal before the end of this month if they hope to start the season around their target date.

The shark, just like the threat of a lost season is bearing down on them. The boat is sinking, they only have a few bullets left to blow up the tank in its mouth. It’s time to fire the shot and save themselves from annihilation.

“Smile you son of a b….”

Author’s Note: I’ve waited my whole life to work a Jaws angle into a hockey story. I hope I didn’t blow it.