The National Hockey League officially cancelled the Winter Classic this afternoon and while the league was reaching the point where they were going to have to cancel the game in the next two – three weeks due to sponsors and all parties involved, the NHL cancelled it earlier than they had to for the sole purpose of gaining more bargaining leverage in the process.
The cancellation, according to sources, was made this week in the hopes of getting the NHLPA serious in negotiations (about the NHL’s offer). With the players constantly trying to find leverage that they don’t have, the league has long believed that Fehr and the players had made the determination weeks ago that the Winter Classic meant so much to the league that there was still a small time period this month where the league was likely to cave on some core issues. That is now out the window from the players end (leverage they thought they might have) and it was a calculated move from Gary Bettman and Bill Daly in the hopes that negotiations begin to accelerate (face to face talks expected early next week) with the owners hope that the players start coming around to the reality that if they want to play NHL hockey this season, they are going to have to start negotiating off the leagues offer.
While there have been no face to face negotiations this week, the league on Tuesday made what Darren Dreger of TSN reports being a Major Concession. Dreger reports, “the league amended a proposal made last month to shift the cost of the NHL-designed ‘make whole’ provision from the players share over to the owners side. The concept of “Make Whole” is a protection plan to cover player salary reduction in dropping the players revenue share from 57% to 50% in year 1 of a new CBA.”
The NHLPA is asking for the owners to honor all contracts but to this point have not jumped onboard to start negotiating off the league’s 50-50 offer from October 16th. When they do, we’ll start seeing some movement and it’s possible that the league’s so called “major concession” in addressing the make whole provision will finally get things moving and there being hockey by late November, early December, which would be ironic considering that’s been the feeling from some league executives since this summer. However, nothing is known right now until there is an actual response from the players, which might not be positive.