Some players will return to their offseason homes, some will sign contracts to play elsewhere and a few will remain in Washington, paying out of their own pockets for ice time so they can keep skating and stay in shape. There has been little optimism in the days leading up to the league’s deadline that this labor dispute will be resolved quickly, and players continue to stress their collective preparedness for a lengthy stalemate.
“I don’t think it’s our problem right now. I think it’s more [the owners] to be honest with you,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “We just want to make the system right and make it fair. We’re not dumb. Obviously we want a great deal for both partners. We’ll see how the negotiations go and just wait for a fair deal.”
While players make lockout plans, their employers are doing the same. On Thursday night, Capitals season ticket holders received a letter from owner Ted Leonsis explaining that accounts will not be charged for any games that aren’t played, monthly payment plans will be suspended, and that any funds already in an account will receive a 1 percent APR interest rate.
“I want to assure you that the NHL’s priority is to reach an agreement with the players,” Leonsis wrote. “We all want to talk about exciting games, upcoming opponents and great plays, not the nuances of labor negotiation. We get it — and I empathize with you.”
At this stage in the talks, the owners and players have each presented three proposals, the most recent of which came on Wednesday. But a wide gulf remains between the two sides on fundamental economic issues — chiefly the players’ share of revenues.
The players currently receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenues. In their latest offer, that number would lower to 54.3 percent at the start and then 52.7 at the end of a five-year agreement. In the fourth and fifth years, players would also receive 54 percent of any so-called new revenues, beyond what was created in the previous year.
Under the owners’ latest proposal, which keeps a uniform definition of hockey-related revenue, the players’ share would drop to 49 percent in the first year, 48 percent the second and then to 47 in the final four seasons of their six-year plan.
Each of the NHL’s offers begins with an insistence upon the players taking an immediate paycut, which is a non-starter for the union. The players are adamant that they don’t see a portion of their existing salaries sliced off the top after they agreed to a salary cap and 24 percent rollback at the end of the 2004-05 lockout.