Some insight into the NHL’s latest CBA offer to the NHLPA

Last week the NHL made another in a line of "last offers" to the NHLPA. From what has been leaked to various media outlets, this has been the most complete offer I have seen. In the past, the offers have focused mainly on the "make whole" provision or the various ways to curtail player contracting rights. This is natural because they are the biggest issues between the two sides.

Enough has been said about the big obstacles between the two sides, I want to take a deeper look at some of the small improvements for the players in this offer. I don’t know if the NHLPA asked for these or the NHL volunteered these adjustments. Either way, as a player I would think some of these would be appealing.

If the NHL voluntarily put some of these little details into this offer I say good on them. If not, it doesn’t make a big difference. This is a negotiation in which the players are giving up and the owners are taking. Some minor concessions from the owners could go a ways in helping the players swallow any agreement.

Most of the following are not huge issues. I do think that they have been overlooked by most.

1. On and off-ice player discipline procedures.

Any player facing either of these issues will be able to appeal to a neutral third party. A perfect example of this would be Raffi Torres. Instead of his appeal going to Gary Bettman, which makes no sense, he would have a different set of ears hear his case.

This will only affect a small amount of the NHLPA members in each year but just like insurance you don’t realize you want or need it until you are in trouble.

2. Playoff pool increase.

This will be increased from$6.5 million to $13 million in year one. This will be increased from year to year. It isn’t clear from whose share the funding will come from, but still a bonus for the players.

3. Working conditions.

I know this sounds odd to have included for the NHLPA. They are treated very well. This doesn’t mean nicer hotels, softer beds or faster planes. For the most part it relates to scheduling. I think this is very important.

There will now be mandatory days off during training camp. There is already a rule in place that players cannot be at the rink for more than three hours during training camp. This seems more like a guideline though, the players don’t just walk off at the three hour mark. There is no rule for days off during training camp. That is at the discretion of the coaches.

I never understood why many days off were not given during camp. It isn’t forty years ago when players would come to camp to get into shape. They are all in shape and the season is very long. A little rest during camp would keep the guys fresh and I believe help teams go into the regular season with healthier clubs. Under the terms of this offer, a number of days off would be mandatory during training camp for all teams to schedule.

There would also be a mandatory number of days off required for the regular season. I played on teams where we got nearly no days off the whole season. Crazy!! Physical as well as mental rest is important during the marathon of a NHL season. Sometimes I think coaches don’t want to give a day off because of the perception. The media or fans would frown upon a team getting a day off during a cold streak. Believe me, at times a day off is way more valuable to ending a slump than hitting the ice for a half-assed practice.

There were always rumours of the NHL wanting to schedule Christmas Day games. Pretty tall order to go against the NBA, might be a tall order in the U.S. Under this new offer, the Christmas break would be three days rather than the past two days.

Everyone likes time off at Christmas, if you can get it. I think this is great. Not only do the players, coaches, training staff and management get a longer break during the holidays, but so does the staff that works the games. I am talking about everyone from the guy selling the popcorn in the upper decks to the person handing out 50/50 tickets. This three day break is a no brainer!

A surprise under the work condition header for me was a tighter restriction on off-season conditioning requirements. Currently a team cannot force any player under contract to come to a team workout or skate session in the off season. This of course doesn’t mean that the recently drafted or rookies won’t all come to a summer development camp. That is in their best interest.

I thought the NHL might want to work towards an approach more similar to the NFL. Something where the team would bring all their players in for a week during the summer to get a jump on the season. It just makes sense for me, and quite frankly it is something I would have been interested in doing when I was playing.

A coach could go through some on-ice issues and off-ice workouts, nothing too crazy. In my mind the real benefit would be for the group of players themselves, as it would be a great chance for team building. Golfing in the afternoons and a couple of team dinners would really bring a group together. Especially when you would have signed a few free agents in during the summer. This would allow guys to get to know each other before camp and make the newcomers fell more welcome.

4. Changes to the performance-enhancing substance programs.

  • Illegal stimulants will be included
  • Testing for HGH
  • Adjustment of times of testing during the year.

I think this is important for both the NHL and NHLPA to agree upon. The first two issues aren’t big ones, but the adjustment of testing times during the year is. Currently any player can be tested up to four times during the regular season and no less than three. There is no testing in the off-season.

It would be a big hassle to incorporate off-season testing into the program. That being said I think there should be out of season testing. I don’t think there is a big problem in the league with steroids or HGH, but it’s better for everyone involved to get in front of the issue.

NHL players are scattered all over the world. Each player would need to submit a schedule to the testing authorities to let them know exactly where they would be all summer. It would have to be very detailed and accurate. If the testers came to a location a player said they would be at and the player was not it creates a big problem. Under other testing protocols a missed test can be considered a failed test.

The off-season testing would be crazy to incorporate and a big hassle for everyone involved, but I feel strongly that it should be a part of any new CBA.

5. Interview period for unrestricted free agents.

I love this one! It should have been done years ago. This would allow potential free agents to visit with clubs, and their city, they may choose to sign with as free agent. It would give a player and his family a chance to get to know the city and the organization. Getting a chance to sit down with the coach, G.M. or current players of the team would be a huge bonus. Trying to make a decision about who to sign with, sometimes in literally one hour, is a huge task, and this interview period would make it easier and clearer for both the player and team.

I think this would help the Oilers a lot. Let’s face it, winter in Edmonton can be a little cold and dark. For most visiting players the idea they have in their head of our great city is this. They arrive at the airport after a game somewhere at two in the morning and then drive forty five minutes to a hotel downtown. The wind is blowing the snow around and it doesn’t look great. They get up the next morning and drive to Rexall through areas that are not the best. If that is all a potential free agent has to base his judgment of Edmonton on, would it make it a compelling place to sign?

Given a chance to visit our great city during a free agent interview period in June, their minds would be opened. Winter is gone and they get to see other areas of the city. An Oiler staff member could show them where they could live, schools their kids could go to or the great rec centers that are all over the city. It would be a fuller picture and one I know many players enjoy once they get to see it. It would make the Edmonton a more desirable place to play.

I know many of you are saying with all the talent that has been assembled here players will be fighting to come here. That is true, but there are other teams with talent as well. This visiting period would help a lot.

I still think a deal will get done and a season will get going. Will any of these issues push the deal over the top or hold it back? No, but they are little things that will be a change from past CBA deals. The one topic to watch for will be the drug testing. I am interested to see which way that goes.

Happy New Year to everyone!

  • Where's Your Towel

    Nice insight. Thanks Struds.

    I was fairly surprised when I saw all this stuff included in the leaked details of the NHL deal. I’m sure the league didn’t just come up with them and throw them on the table unbidden, but I hadn’t heard any mention of working conditions up until that point.

    It seems to me that these are the sort of things (along with pensions) that the Union should be more concerned with. If the division of HRR is set, as long as the union membership receives the percentage agreed to, why should they care how it is split amongst them?

  • Guy Lafleur

    The players are too pampered , i think Bruce McNall , yes that Bruce McNall said it best when he grew tired of the players whining , “they dont like the salad dressing we serve on our charter flights” .
    This primadonnadness showed through this year when guys like Kane ,Turris and Lupul whining about playing in other countries , Kane saying he went for a dine and dash and its not his dream to win the Globan Cup , if Russian players did that kind of thing they would be crucified here in North America .
    Awww pumpkin Edmonton doesnt have no palm trees or muscle beaches and no super models we are sorry pfffffft!!!!!
    I wish some rogue billionaire would start up a new WHA league right now and compete head to head with the NHL , steal NHL players and see what happens .
    Sorry for the rant ime just a little bitter .Now back to the post office job where i can play soccer with some FRAGILE parcels to relieve my frustrations!!

  • Guy Lafleur

    I agree to the working conditions. I see no reason other than injury to not give a player time off to recuperate. Krushell is always harping on the need for athletes to rest. Why does this guy not have a job with an NHL team? Peak performance is only obtained when the player is rested and give 100%. And its not just the physical rest that is important.Its the mental rest. And that IMO is more important. This is where the time away becomes important whether with family or friends or doing something other than focusing on hockey.

    Edmonton Athletes are great in that they give a lot of their personal time to events and charities within our community. Its a great outlet. It helps the players to remove themselves from the rink and focus on things outside of their comfort zone. It gives them an outlet for stress that works in a positive way meaningful way.
    The free agent review period would be nice. How many players really know our city.Really know our city? 5%? Maybe. The rest are guys who just see it from the air. Or from the hotel room. When is the last time someone went to Detroit? Phoenix in the summer? Miami during hurricane season? Or Toronto during garbage strike season.Are we really that bad?

    The lock out will last as long as it lasts. Till then I will enjoy RNH lighting up the WJHC’s.And Eberle and Hall gain more experience in the AHL.Till then…

  • Guy Lafleur

    Really dislike the three hour rule, as well as training camp off days. If your going to make millions playing a game, you should at least have to work hard. I have to work at least 8 hours a day, and through its not as physically demanding it is mentally exhausting. I don’t think nhl player understand how blessed they are, as most never had to work a real job. Even ahl players make enough money to live on. Don’t get me wrong, i think the players do deserve a fair share of the profits, which would probably be in the millions, based on the size of the industry. I understand this, and would rather have 1000 millionaires than 1 billionaire, but it does leave me a bit perplexed. How many other companies pay half their profits to their workers? If it were me nhl players would be making like 1 million max, and would be working their asses off. Workouts twice a day everyday along with a conditioning running type program and an on ice skill session. That should total about 6-7 hours a day. I think thats fair because as a high school football player on a provicial championship team, i spent about 3-4 hours a day training. Nhl teams should be allowed to force this workload on players in the summer. During the season, i understand that players wouldn’t work as hard, so that they are in tip top shape.
    As an aside, i was looking at the draft combine, and was unimpressed by the testing results. I would have finished near the top for bench with my 225 for four. Keep in mind i am 5’11”, 170. On my football team, i was well down the list for bench, with the teo strongest on our team hitting 16 reps. I don’t understand how non-paid athletes can be stronger than aspiring professionals.

    • Jason Strudwick

      Sounds like your football coach was a dictator and that you were one of the strongest eighteen year olds on the planet!

      Couple of points for you. First off football and hockey players train very differently due to the nature of the sports. Many hockey players rarely touch a bench press these days unless they are training their egos.

      From all the football leagues I have seen there is only one game a week. Just slightly less then the 3 or 4 in the NHL. That is why rest is required. Ask any training professional and they will tell you that.

      Can you tell us what your other max numbers were? Squats and deadlift in particular. I knw Wanye once did ten body weight deadlifts over a weekend.

      • stevezie

        Jason can I just calrify something? When you said you played for teams with no days off, did you mean you went to the rink every single day- that there was never one sleep in? That can’t be right.

  • I tried it at home

    Interesting article, it brought up a few conditions that really arent discussed all that much, I guess you’d have to of been there to have that insight. A for some of the comments… seriously, can we end the “they get paid MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars” so they should be happy to have to shovel sh** or clear sidewalks. Im in a demanding but ultimately well paying trade, not NHL level salary but I do better then most. And guess what? The contractors offer more, or if I can get another dollar or two by jumping ship, I take it!! Same as you or anyone else. It doesnt matter what the bucks are, everyone wants to have a say in thier own destiny, and feel appreciated. Its called human nature. Do Ithink theyre over paid for thier skill set? Probably, but stop and look at the NBA or baseball. Takes less skill sets, IMHO, but the salaries are way more then the NHL get. Get some perspective on whats going on.

  • Guy Lafleur

    Good article Jason. I expect at least some of these issues came from the NHLPA.

    Over-training can be an issue for elite athletes, a point missed by “Guy Lafleur” and the “Thinker”.

    I also like the idea of an interview period for UFAs. While it might help the Oilers sell the city as a great place ot live and play, it will do the same for many other cities too. However, players will be better positioned to make make informed decisions. The league as a whole will be better off.

    • I completely agree that over training or getting tired over the entire season can be a major issue. HOWEVER. I don’t like this. I think a more progressive team would give this kind of stuff to their players this way it could potentially give them a leg up on everyone else.

  • I’m ok with an interview period as long as it isnt extended. I mean a week would be a lot of time to get in contact, fly someone down, and get them signed. More than that and everyone will already have made their decisions.

  • T__Bone88

    I agree that there should be a neutral third party for discipline procedures. The third-party should not be from a NHL city though. I can just imagine if they chose a third-party from Montreal or Toronto and had to review an incident involving a player from that city, there might be too much bias (Ie. Chara-Pacioretty incident).

  • T__Bone88

    It’s good to see the two sides negotiating seriously for a change.

    I for one never understood why ( this is universal across most businesses) we had to wait till the last hour to start negotiating. In my personal business regardless of how much time we presented our business partners, deals never got done until the deadline approached, and usually in the final hour.

    I for one do not believe that if the NHL presented this latest offer ( or what will become the final offer) back in September, that we would be playing right now. I strongly suspect the NHLPA would have seen this as a starting point not an ending point.

    The other thing is realignment…….why does the NHLPA view this as a ” working condition”???? Does it not make sense to have Winnipeg in the Western Conference?

  • T__Bone88

    I might have gone off on a bit of a tangent, but i do think that a decent amount of time should be invested by the players more on moral principal than anything else. I was far from the strongest on my team, probably was in the tenth to twentieth range. I squated about 285 without a spot, and with a spotter i hit about 355x 6(not exact because it was metric). Again, i was not the strongest. Deadlift wasn’t my strong point, as i have troble with keeping a flat back, so i only ever hit 295×6, but others hit much higher(at least 350ish). Those are the three big football exercises. Everything else was little exercises like pull-ups, shoulders and biceps. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, thats not the point. i was genuinely shocked by how low the testing results were. I just thought that i should’t be in the range of million dollar athletes. Obviously I can’t do thing on ice nearly as well, but I still think that the work ethic of some major leaguers are overrated; three hours a day is nothing.

  • T__Bone88

    Question for you Jason, regarding player discipline, although not directly related to the article;

    As a player, was there ever frustration that the weight of the PA would be used to defend a player like Torres (as an example) instead of advocate for punishment on behalf of the player that was victimized like Hossa was (as an example)?

    Was there ever any consideration to try and change the way the PA’s involved? I would think that such a shift in approach would help act as a deterent moving forward.

  • Guy Lafleur

    With respect to scheduling games, I think there is some wild and weird stuffing going on in the NHL. I am sure its a challenge, with many rinks serving the NBA at the same time, extra concerts and events. But some teams get way more back to back games, too often the visiting teams is waiting for the home team to come off the plane to play the next day. The one that drives me nuts, is playing the same team 5 times in a month and half ,may it be at home or away. Maybe it’s time the NHL started using a computer and chuck the old dart board away.