The NHL and NHLPA have hit a wall when it comes to their recent negotiations over the 2020-21 NHL season. Optimism over the season starting as early as January 1st is dwindling among insiders and league officials. Players are angry over reduced salaries, owners are concerned about ticket revenue, and things are falling apart pretty quickly. With the NBA season on the horizon, basketball fans are gearing up to cheer on their favorite team one month from today. The NHL is taking the role as neglected middle child who just cannot get their ducks in a row.
The league's concern over ticket sales
The recent uptick in COVID-19 infections throughout the world is hitting the NHL harder than other sports leagues throughout the country. In the 2017-18 season, ticket sales accounted for 37% of the NHL's total revenue, and the hope that we could see fans in the arena's at some point this season seems to be flickering away. For small market teams who already have a hard time drawing crowds, the loss of ticket sales, plus the cost of running a team, is spelling disaster. Reported by ESPN's Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski, there are a few owners around the league who are lobbying to cancel the season entirely.
Players are being asked to defer salaries, yet again
Back in July, players agreed to defer 10% of their 2020-21 salaries in order to make a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) possible, and also to get the two Stanley Cup bubbles of Edmonton and Toronto up and running. Players also agreed to a 20% escrow cap. Now, the league is asking players to defer another 13% of their salary, on top of the already agreed upon 10%. After all is said and done, with everything else that was agreed upon in the new CBA, the players would be taking home only 62% of their pay for the 2020-21 season.
As reported by Elliotte Friedman, the league has made two proposals to the players:
Deferred pay raised to 20%, and escrow cap bumped up to 25%
26% salary deferral for next season, escrow will be raised from the already agreed upon 6% to 8.5% or 9% in the final two years of the CBA.
“There were audible gasps when this was presented” on the NHLPA conference call, one player said. To understand the emotion, recognize that — to players — “escrow” is the dirtiest word in the dictionary. There’s nothing else even close.
The NHL's escrow system is very complex and hard to understand. I understand it up to a certain point, but I am in no way claiming to be an expert on the topic. In fact, talking about the escrow system sometimes puts me to sleep. To find out everything you need to know about NHL escrow, click here.
The fate of the 2020-21 season hangs in the balance. With the season having a tentative start date of January 1st, 2021, and training camps opening up around mid December, I would imagine some kind of deal needs to be agreed upon by the end of November, which is coming up very quickly.
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Happy Sunday, hockey fans. Enjoy your week and let's hope for some good news soon.