Bettman: NHL players have to decide to pay now or later

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman warned players on Wednesday that they will likely have to pay in some way to make up for the league’s expected foregone earnings when the 2020-21 season kicks off.

Speaking at a Sports Business Journal panel, Bettman stressed that the NHL is not trying to reopen the collective bargaining agreement about five months after the renewal. Instead, he said, the fiscal reality during the pandemic means that the 50-50 split of income between owners and players will be affected at least for the foreseeable future.

And that means that players will have to bear the brunt of any owner shortage.

The question then becomes, Bettman said, whether it is in their best interest to repay the money in the short term – by deferring a higher percentage of their salaries as the NHL has argued in discussions – or the potential of a lower salary cap eyes to see. stay flat during the rest of the six-year deal.

“When we have to pay out a lot of cash, two-thirds of which comes back to us, it can cause some stress,” said Bettman. And in the same way, if the players owe us more money than anyone could have imagined, the salary cap could be very good or nearly flat for the next five or six years, and players will pay back what we owe in the future. . “

When it comes to a flat cap, which would have the potential to limit future wage increases for players, Bettman said, “(Players) have to ask,” Is this right? “

The NHL’s new CBA is currently calling for players to defer 10% of their pay for the upcoming season, and it places a limit on how much money will remain in escrow for the duration of the deal.

Without calling it a formal proposal, the league has increased the ability to allow players to increase salary deferral to 20% or 26% and increase escrow limits, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. because neither side publicly announces the details of the negotiations.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association did not respond to a message asking for comment.

Players and various agents have personally grumbled about the developments, accusing the league of abandoning the July deal that led to the game’s resumption and completion of last season.

Bettman refuted the criticism, calling it “unfortunate” and “inaccurate,” saying the agreement at the time was based on collective assumptions that no longer apply. The NHL now has to account for a gate revenue shortage as fans are not initially expected to attend games.

Another issue is the likelihood of a one-off rescheduling due to cross-border travel restrictions, which will likely result in Canada’s seven teams competing in one division. US-based teams may need to play in hub cities as opposed to their own arenas.

The league is also expected to play a shortened season, which could consist of just 48 games, like what happened in the 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign.

In an email to The Associated Press, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said “As of now,” the NHL is still aiming for January 1 to start the season, before adding, “That is clearly subject to change.”

It is increasingly unlikely that the NHL will meet that target date. Players have not yet been asked to travel to their home cities. If they do, they may have to spend up to two weeks in self-quarantine before teams are even allowed to open a training camp.

Another problem is local health regulations. For example, the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers moved to Arizona this week after Santa Clara County banned contact sports teams from holding games and practice for at least the next three weeks.

The San Jose Sharks are located in the same county.