I have said all along that I believe that the next CBA negotiation will be about the players wanting more say in how the league is run so long as their salaries are tied to league revenues. The NHLPA leadership was still in limbo so there was no offiicial response but when the Nashville Predators sale to Jim Balsillie was a go and then a no go there were rumblings of player dissatisfaction at the possible Gary Bettman interference in the sale. The players would have liked the Predators to be moved to Hamilton, as Balsillie would have done, because it would generate far more revenue in Hamiltion than in Nashville or Kansas City or anywhere else. As you all know the players salaries are directly tied to revenue.
This past weekend the NHL announced that four teams (Ottawa, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay) are set to begin next season with a couple games in Stockholm and Prague. The NHL also announced that the Rangers would play in an exhibition tournament in Bern Switzerland before heading off to Prague for its games against Tampa. Shortly after the official announcement was made the NHL announced that they are not too happy that the NHL announcing these games without getting permission of the players.
“If they want us to be a true business partner, then they need to include us from the beginning,” Kelly concluded.
That quote from Kelly is very telling. In the last CBA negotiations Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the owners constantly said they want a partnership with the players. In fact they only wanted a revenue sharing deal and not a real partnership but now the NHLPA is calling them out and saying, ‘if you want a partnership then…’ I have little doubt that the NHLPA will approve the NHL’s plan to play games in Europe to start next season but I think we should all view this as a marker in the sand for where the NHLPA is going under the leadership of Paul Kelly. The NHL will then have to either give up say in league business decisions to the players or else give up significant concessions in the way the salary cap works.