Now that pre-season games are being cancelled, the likelihood of the NHL lockout costing regular season contests has increased. But how much of the season will be lost? WGR posed that question to Paul Kelly, former Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players Association, during his segment with the morning show on Thursday.
Kelly said he doesn’t think this will last the whole season, as was the case back in 2004-2005. He believes it will probably end around Thanksgiving. “In the last round you were looking to make major, systemic changes(salary cap) and it was not a surprise to lose an entire season” Kelly said. “Here the battle is really over money and frankly there’s a consensus to be had there and there’s no reason why people can’t come together.”
Kelly, who led the NHLPA from October 2007 through August 2009, said one of the challenges facing Don Fehr(current Executive Director) will be to keep the 750 member association unified as the lockout goes on. “It’s a huge challenge keeping PA membership together” Kelly told WGR. “Its not only guys with varying incomes. Its guys from different cultures, different countries with different backgrounds, and different outlooks, spread out across the globe. You get guys at the tail end of their careers and guys just beginning their careers. Gary(Bettman) has it much easier to hold his group together of 30(owners).”
Kelly says the players won’t feel any pressure to settle in October since they will be receiving money through escrow payments which is money that was held back last season. But come November and December when players will have missed four to six paychecks, the dynamics will change and some internal pressure will begin to mount inside the association.
Kelly added the deeper this lockout goes, the more chance you will have veteran players with only one or two years left in their careers, speak out publicly and take positions contrary to the NHLPA as Jeremy Roenick did during the last lockout.
Kelly also talked about the power the NHL Commissioner has when it comes to CBA negotiations. “Gary Bettman has enormous trust and confidence from his ownership group” Kelly said. “He’s a veteran presence, he’s an established labor negotiator, he’s a very smart guy. You’ve got some strong owners out there but Gary will dictate where this goes. Whatever recommendations he makes, my guess is the owners will follow.”
Kelly offered up his idea of a proposal. He thinks it should be a long term deal, 8-10 years in length. Salaries should hold where they are in year 1(players would receive $1.87 billion which Kelly estimates would be around 55% of revenues). The players percentage of revenues would then slide down a point every two years until it reaches 50% and would hold there.
He believes there should be enhanced revenue sharing where the bigger teams give more money to the lesser teams. In addition, the players shouldn’t give up the rights they earned after the last work stoppage and they should definitely push to maintain participation in the Olympics since that is good for the NHL product.