NHL took on COVID-19 to finish last season, can they overcome money dispute for next year?

Will hockey be cancelled this season (Chris Young/AP)

Last March the hockey world came to a stand still. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop with shutting down the NHL, it shut down businesses everywhere. It ravaged lives, economies, and changed the way everyone lives.

Still, I was optimistic that the NHL would find a way to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. I am not feeling that way today.

CBA dispute could cancel the season

Not only did the NHL Return-to-Play and pull off the impossible of completing the season without a single positive test, they even extended the CBA. Amazing as both parties were fully committed to find a way.

This morning, the game faces the same challenges of COVID-19 even with a vaccine on the horizon. However, the NHL and its owners are asking for the players to make more concessions than what they agreed to in July.

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.

Late yesterday, 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.

nhl cba
Gary Bettman (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NHL Players and agents angry over demands

As you can imagine, many players are not happy about giving up more money. Many of them bargained in good faith when they did the CBA just four months ago.

Agents are voicing their opinions as well. Allan Walsh who represents stars like Marc-Andre Fleury had a snide remark to the situation. “Imagine if NHL players approached the League four months after agreeing to a new CBA attempting to dramatically change the terms of the deal?” Walsh pondered. “How quickly would Gary say “Take a hike”? The ink isn’t even dry on the new deal.”

Imagine if NHL players approached the League four months after agreeing to a new CBA attempting to dramatically change the terms of the deal? How quickly would Gary say “Take a hike”? The ink isn’t even dry on the new deal.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) November 18, 2020

Friedman also relayed word that the players were floored by the proposal. “There were audible gasps when this was presented,” one player told him. Other comments were, “We just made a deal, so why should it be changed?” and “They knew this was going to happen all along, didn’t they?”

Can the two sides overcome this?

The big question remains, can they work this out and play hockey? Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr are going to have figure this out. However, the sentiment around the league is that if completing last season was challenge, this would be the Mount Everest of challenges.

There’s a lot to be worked out because the players are discussing as we speak and will come back to the league soon with a counter. This is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

The only alternative is to cancel the season and have no one get paid. Another small possibility is that the NHLPA will cave but some star players might sit out in protest. Don’t forget, Rangers star Artemi Panarin wrote a letter for players to hold out because of escrow.

Hockey overcame COVID-19 to play…but money? Well that’s been a challenge in all businesses for a long time. It shut down hockey a few times before, will it do so again?

Time will tell.

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