San Jose, Calif. — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday the owners aren’t “looking for a fight” when it comes to collective bargaining negotiations with the players.
The current CBA runs until 2022, but the league and players each have the option this September to terminate it effective Sept. 15, 2020.
Bettman said at a news conference at All-Star weekend that the owners are mostly satisfied with the last two negotiations that instituted a salary cap and then provided an even split of hockey-related revenues between players and owners.
“There’s no question that the league is healthier now dramatically,” Bettman said.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t have a system that corrected some of the ills in the past. We have stability, we have competitive balance and the game is able to grow. That’s good for everyone involved with the game.”
NHLPA special assistant to the executive director Mathieu Schneider agreed that the tenor of discussions has improved in a sport that has had one strike and three lockouts since 1992.
But the players want to recoup some of the losses they suffered in the last two negotiations, including an end to the escrow payments that ensure the 50-50 split in revenues, he said.
However, Schneider said he didn’t agree that the players are in control of whether there will be another work stoppage.
“There’s no question that the players have given back billions of dollars over the course of the past two negotiations,” Schneider said. “That’s no secret. I don’t think I’d characterize it as the ball’s in the players’ hands.”
Both sides have had productive talks already and were able to reach an agreement on player and puck tracking, which Bettman said bodes well for more difficult negotiations ahead.
Schneider said the tension that was present at the start of the last talks that led to a lockout that wiped out 510 games is in in the past and both sides agree the relationship between players and owners today is stronger than ever.
“Hopefully, we’re at a place where labor peace can be more important than anything else we need to accomplish,” Bettman said. “Because I think the opportunities in front of us are even greater than what’s been behind us.”
Another potential sticking point is international play. Players were upset the league didn’t allow them to participate in the 2018 Olympics and want assurances that they can play in the 2022 games in Beijing.
The sides agreed not to stage the World Cup of Hockey in 2020 because of the uncertainty of the labor agreement but hope to hammer out a plan for international play in the current CBA negotiations.
Puck and player tracking
Puck and player tracking is coming to the NHL next season. A sneak preview is coming up this weekend, too.
Commissioner Bettman announced the long-expected news Friday during All-Star Weekend, calling it a “breakthrough that is years in the making.”
The league is partnering with German company Jogmo World Corp. to put microchips on player jerseys and inside game pucks. Real-time data will be gathered by antennas in all 31 NHL arenas.
The NHL joins the NFL as the two major North American professional sports leagues with wearable tracking technology. The NBA and Major League Baseball use sophisticated systems that can include radar and cameras.
“Being on the forefront of innovation is good for our game and most especially for our fans,” Bettman said.
“With the speed and complexity of hockey, it makes for an unparalleled on-ice product, but at the same time it also presents an incredible challenge.
“So as a league we have made significant investment to create new technology that quite literally did not exist.”
Long after the glowing puck of FoxTrax a generation ago, the NHL began its work on puck and player tracking in earnest in 2013.
Tests of various systems were done at All-Star games, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and two regular-season games earlier this month in Las Vegas.