The National Hockey League (NHL) season did not start as scheduled on October 11, 2012, because of ongoing labor contract negotiations and the league’s decision to lockout its players.  The NHL rekindled hope for a 2012-2013 season when it made an unexpected counter-proposal to the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) and its players. The League’s latest proposal was highlighted by a proposed 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue between owners and players and a complete 82 regular season schedule that would begin on November 2nd.

In a surprising move, the NHL has published the documents it gave to the NHLPA as part of its latest proposal. The initial document contains a 10-point offer to the players and the second contains a through explanation of the proposal. (See the full text of both documents at

In addition to the proposed 50-50 revenue split, other highlights of the proposal include:

  • A six-year proposal (with an option for a seventh year);
  • A salary cap of $59.9 million for the 2012-2013 season with an exception for the first year of the agreement that allows teams to spend $70.2 million;
  • A new rule that would allow teams to retain a portion of a player’s salary in trades;
  • The reduction of entry-level contracts to two years;
  • A limitation on contract terms to five years and a stipulation that the average annual value of the years of the contract can only vary by a maximum of 5 percent;
  • An annual revenue-sharing pool of $200 million, 50 percent of which will come from the League’s 10 wealthiest teams. The League will create a committee, which will include the NHLPA, to determine how the money will be distributed; and
  • The introduction of a “neutral” third-party arbitrator to handle appeals on discipline, with a “clearly erroneous” standard of review.

While some players expressed cautious optimism about the NHL’s latest proposal, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr was less than enthusiastic. In a letter to NHLPA members and agents, Fehr stated, “Simply put, the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights.” Fehr continued with a cautionary message to his players, “at the five percent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion.”

The NHL lockout began on September 16th when the League locked out players due to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. The regular season schedule has already been canceled through October 24th. For the League to maintain its regular 82-game season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has proposed that the regular season begin on November 2nd, with each team only required to play one additional game every five weeks during the season.

We will provide updates on further developments.

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.