NHL governors look ahead to expiring CBA before meetings wrap up

PEBBLE BEACH, Fla. – The NHL’s Board of Governors discussed the upcoming labour negotiations with the union prior to wrapping up two days of meetings Tuesday.

The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire Sept. 15, 2012, and discussions are scheduled to begin shortly after the NHL all-star break at the end of January with union head Donald Fehr.

The NHL locked out the players at the start of the 1994-95 season, forcing a 48-game regular-season schedule. When labour problems lingered in 2004-05, commissioner Gary Bettman shut down the league for the entire season.

“The system was broken and needed to be fixed,” said Oilers president Kevin Lowe. “I don’t think the NHL is talking that way this time around but there needs to be some changes inevitably like there always is. We haven’t heard from the union yet.”

The owners were briefed on recent labour deals reached by the other three major North American professional sports leagues. Only the NBA missed regular season games because of labour issues, having the season reduced from 82 games to 66.

But both the NFL and NBA were able to win significant concessions from players, with owners keeping a larger share of the revenue. In the NFL’s 10-year deal, owners will get about 53 per cent of the revenue compared to the old CBA that provided for close to a 50-50 split. NBA players will have their share of basketball-related income fall from 57 per cent in the old deal to between 49 per cent and 51 per cent in the new agreement.

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NHL players are currently receiving 57 per cent of league revenues.

The major news from the meetings came Monday, when the board gave Bettman the authority to realign the league from its current six-division format to four conferences of seven or eight teams.

The NHL Players’ Association said it needs to agree on any plan and wants more details about how it would affect travel, competitive balance and revenues. Daly said the union can’t withhold consent “unreasonably” and that he doesn’t anticipate any issues that will prevent this from being resolved in a few weeks so the league can make a schedule.