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JONES: NHL and its players bargaining toward long-term stability

作者:admin 2020-07-05

What happens on the ice and with COVID-19 testing in the hub cities in the Stanley Cup playoffs remains to be seen. But hockey in the most challenging circumstances imaginable appears to have set itself up for a remarkable achievement.

Said to be on the verge of declaring a tentative agreement Saturday, league stakeholders were informed of significant important items supposedly settled.

When the tentative agreement has enough Is dotted and Ts crossed, it’ll go to the NHL governors and NHL Players Association for ratification and an announcement as early as Tuesday.

When it happens, it will be a significant happening in hockey history, setting up the two often-warring groups for a successful return to play between now and early October in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

But the total triumph involved is that it would set the league up for the next six years.

To produce a new collective bargaining agreement at any time without a lockout in this era is remarkable enough, but to do it in the middle of a pandemic would have to be considered a staggering accomplishment.

At a time when other leagues are looking lost and about to play games in high risk — some would say insane — situations, Gary Bettman’s owners and Donald Fehr’s players, appear to have combined to give themselves long-term stability with a template to get through the next six years. Maybe seven.

They’ve created what appears to be a contract that will allow both to come out the other end of the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic challenges triumphing together.

Anybody associated with the sport has to applaud what has happened here, assuming both sides get it ratified in the next few days.

If the league can follow through and produce a safe, successful playoffs now in Edmonton and Toronto, this is going to be historic.

No matter what happens in the two hub cities and how the bubble boys make out, consider what the players and owners appear to have accomplished as they’ve face the challenges involved here, arm in arm.

The owners and players previously failed to get the stars of the sport to the Olympic Winter Games. But today’s new generation of stars, including Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Auston Matthews, will go into the primetime years of their careers knowing they’ll be able to finally be able to play for their countries and compete in the next two Olympic Winter Games in 2022 in Beijing, and 2026 in Milan, subject to negotiations with the International Olympic Committee.

Other highlights include the powder keg escrow situation, with a clause that could kick in to make this a seven-year deal and an agreement to freeze the salary cap at $81.5 million for at least the next two years.

There are other significant items involving salary deferral, no-trade clauses, outlawing front-loaded contracts and the like to be detailed and whatever the two sides are trying to tie up this weekend.

As for what is about to transpire in Edmonton and Toronto, several significant details were revealed Saturday, as expected, including the confirmation that Edmonton would play host to both conference final series and the Stanley Cup final. Dates were also confirmed for Phase 3 (training camps) to begin July 13, Phase 4 hub city opening July 26 and the start of Stanley Cup tournament play, with the best-of-five play-in games Aug. 1.

An Aug. 10 date was declared for the Alexis Lafreniere Lottery, a.k.a. Part 2 of the NHL Lottery Draft.

It was revealed that the players headed to Toronto and Edmonton to play in the two empty arenas will be playing for unprecedented playoff prize money.

The dollars will double this season from $16 million US to $32 million US.

The winning players of the play-in round will each receive $20,000 US. The series winning payoffs escalate from there to the players’ share on the Stanley Cup winning team receiving $240,000 US each.

You get the idea. The players and the league have been working together to create a great moment in sports history. And, if the teams can somehow get their players to Toronto and Edmonton ‘Hubbles’ with no major outbreaks coming out of training camps, hockey will have given itself a chance to triumph through the first week of October, when commissioner Bettman presents the Stanley Cup in Rogers Place.

Considering the way this appears to be coming together, maybe this year he should consider co-presenting it with Donald Fehr.

I guarantee you one thing. Nobody would boo.

Oh, right. There will be nobody in the rink.

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

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