Perhaps, just perhaps, we've finally got a glimpse of light at the end of the lockout tunnel.
Gary Bettman lead a group of NHL officials to meet with the NHL PA, and extended a "long term" offer that includes a 50/50 split of hockey related revenue plus protection of salaries as set for the 2012-2013 season. According to reports on Twitter from The Fourth Period's David Pagnotta, the offer is set to cover at least 6 years, and would allow an 82 game season that begins on November 2nd.
It would obviously mean a compressed schedule, but it puts a lot of interesting possibilities on the table, including keeping the Winter Classic and All Star Game on track.
Perhaps the best news is that the NHLPA will hold a conference call to discuss the offer with their membership tonight, which could lead to a decision to accept the proposal or (more likely) a counteroffer that takes the new proposal into account. We'll hopefully know more soon, but it feels like real, honest, movement. I'm sure players aren't thrilled about losing ~7% of the current revenue split, but the fact that the NHL removed salary rollbacks is a major concession, and it could allow them to extend a few olive branches of their own.
Other details are breaking as I write this, including keeping the salary arbitration process, free agency set to begin at age 28 or 8 years in the NHL, ELCs with a max length of 4 years, and a new "ceiling" on non-ELC deals of 5 years. Sportsnet's John Shannon seems to be doing the best job of reporting the various minutae, so give him a visit.
Why the change?
Perhaps the fact that the NHL got caught working on their PR campaign thanks to Deadspin getting access to documents and first person accounts of a recent focus group at PR guru Luntz Global's offices, and the rather ugly PR fallout, particularly reactions from fans who found out the late Derek Boogard's image was used as part of the polling.
Most fans would probably suggest the NHL had been losing the PR war - yesterday's revelations all but buried them. The decision to make this offer pulls them back onto much sturdier footing with fans who want to see NHL hockey and feel a "50/50" split is fair on paper, though it's likely that much of the real legal language around escrow and continued use of the current Hockey Related Revenue / Revenue Sharing rules would be an overall loss for the players and smaller market clubs (like Columbus) alike.
One thing's for certain - it feels like the "real" negotiations have finally begun. Here's hoping that we see additional moves in the right direction before long.
So, what else is going on?
Well, over at the Peanut Gallery Dr. Z is offering salutes, Puck Rakers is officially behind a pay wall if you're not a Dispatch "Digital D" subscriber (brilliant timing, guys), Martini Hockey is getting his loathing on, and the CHL's new Denver Cutthroats have unveiled their uniforms.
One interesting subplot of the NHL negotiations is increasing talk of expansion, but they aren't mentioning Seattle despite their new NHL ready arena being approved. Speaking of expansion, Nebraska is also seriously considering creating a Div I hockey program to play in a Big Ten sanctioned league. The lads at Corn Nation have a brilliant breakdown of the whole business. Please take a look.
Oh, and to step away from hockey for a moment, I totally got married this weekend, so that was fun. The end of the lockout would be one hell of a wedding present.
Finally, our thoughts are with frequent commenter (and occasional blogger) Zekebud, whose father has started treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. On behalf of the community here at The Cannon, we wish him strength and success in his fight.