Lately, it's been very difficult for me to write about the sport I love. In the midst of the lockout, I found myself more apathetic than angry. More resigned than hopeful. If they played hockey this season at all, I would have been surprised. Initially, I tried to tell myself, "They'll get it done in time". Then, when they didn't, I tried to fool myself in to thinking that Thanksgiving would be a solid start date. Then it became New Year's Day. Then...I lost all hope. The NHL and NHLPA had done very little talking, and when they did, it was regarding periphery issues and not the economic issues at the core of the lockout. Both sides were being stubborn and petulant, and I was done caring. "They'll play when they play...now stop asking me about it."
But then...Tuesday happened.
The tweets started rolling out around 12 pm or so. The NHL had made an offer to the NHLPA, and it was real offer. As details started to trickle out, hopes started growing. Then Donald Fehr, the executive director of the players' union, didn't outright dismiss the offer. "I would like to believe that it will be an excellent starting point and we can go forward and see if there is a deal to be made," said Fehr. When I saw that quote, I started to believe we might get to see hockey...and sooner than later.
Here's what we know about the deal so far (per TSN).
Deal is six years in length with an option for a seventh.
Deal calls for a 50-50 split of revenues between owners and players. The NHL's original proposal called for a 47% to 53% split towards the owners.
Includes a deferred salary plan, ensuring players would receive all the money in their existing contracts.
Includes a full 82 game season, with the playoffs beginning near the end of April (as opposed to the typical early/mid April playoff season.)
The NHL wants to put a 5 year cap on the length on contracts. The contract rules would also call for a maximum year to year "salary variance" of 5 percent. So, a $10 million dollar annual salary couldn't dip and dive year to year. The maximum difference year to year would be $500,000. That would put an end to the front / back loaded contracts that teams used to circumvent the salary cap while the last CBA was active.
Entry level contract rules, arbitration rules and unrestricted free agency changes would be put in place to avoid larger second contracts. Entry level contracts would be 2 years instead of 3. Players would become arbitration eligible after 5 years instead of 4. Players would be unrestricted free agents after 8 seasons / 28 years of age vs 7/27 of the last deal.
Nothing is done. Nothing is set in stone, and this could fall apart as quickly as it came to light, but there's been an air of optimism all night...from players and media alike. Words like "hopeful" and "encouraging" were being thrown around for the first time in weeks...months.
At the very least, the next week to 10 days should get the wheels moving on real negotiations. There's your glimmer. Cling to it while you can.