NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 29, 2020
The latest on the return-to-play stalemate between the league and the players in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggests the NHL should ask the expansion Seattle Kraken for a $300 million advance on their $650 million expansion fee instead of attempting to pry that amount from the players through increased escrow and/or salary deferral rates.
The league apparently needs that much to proceed with the 2020-21 season. It is seeking an additional 16 percent salary deferral and an additional five percent in escrow from the players, who rejected those requests citing the agreed-upon rates in the CBA extension ratified in July.
Brooks points out Kraken owners David Bonderman and Jeff Bruckheimer have a combined net worth of $5 billion. He feels they can afford an advance on their team’s expansion fee so the NHL won’t face the possibility of reneging on a four-month-old labor agreement and risking accusations of unfair labor practices.
Failing that, Brooks suggests it’s up to the league and the PA to renegotiate so the players get something in return for deferring more of their salaries for this season, such as getting that money back with interest down the road. He feels neither side can afford to let the season go, pointing out the league needs to complete the final year of its media rights and TV contract with NBC Sports so it can negotiate a new deal starting in 2021-22 with perhaps multiple partners, including a streaming service.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks is a good source for NHLPA information so I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of this is coming from the union. Asking the Kraken for an advance on their expansion fee seems more reasonable than squeezing the players for more giveback. However, the existing teams’ owners might prefer having that money go directly into their pockets rather than putting it toward staging this season.
FORBES: Eric Macramalla suggests the league’s proposals for increased escrow and salary deferrals make sense. Requesting amendments to a ratified agreement is a big deal but the league considers its financial assumptions have dramatically changed and cannot be sufficiently addressed within the framework of the CBA extension.
The absence of fans has likely changed the equation for the NHL. Macramalla feels the league didn’t anticipate the absence of fans in arenas for an entire season. The PA is banking on an additional $1 billion in revenue by having some fans attending some of the games at some point in the schedule. However, that doesn’t seem too likely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league supposedly took into account a worst-case scenario of no fans throughout the season when it agreed to the CBA extension with the players. The fact they’re now asking for more money from the players suggests they either miscalculated what the worst case would look like or just didn’t take it seriously.
Perhaps the NHL’s requests would’ve been better received by the players if it had a good working relationship with the PA. Because of decades of contentious labor negotiations, the players are understandably wary of the league’s intentions and reluctant to give back more than they already have.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers loaning winger Michael Raffl to an Austrian League team suggests the NHL might not be starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1 as it originally planned.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dropping the puck on Jan. 1 requires the league to sort out its aforementioned squabble with the NHLPA. Assuming that’s done by the end of this week, it will have to move quickly to reach that target date. Otherwise, that date will be pushed to mid-January or early February.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Despite the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, one of Canada’s leading infectious diseases specialists feels the NHL could return to play if health protocols are strictly followed. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who advised the NHLPA leading up to this summer’s return-to-play plan, pointed out there would be a problem at NHL rinks as those are set up with systems that adhere to public health measures. However, the players would have to be vigilant when out in their communities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The need for vigilance was highlighted by several members of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights recently testing positive for COVID-19.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: If the NHL season begins on Jan. 1, the Sharks will have to stage their training camp outside of San Jose. Santa Clara County has ruled all contact sports will be temporarily prohibited for the next three weeks.