National Hockey League team owners have presented an initial proposal that calls for a drastic drop in players' share of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent during the negotiation for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The 11-percent drop would represent more than $300 million loss to players as league revenues recently topped $3 billion.
In a two-page proposal presented during Friday's negotiating session in Toronto, the league also proposed that player contracts to be limited to five years and asked that salary arbitration be eliminated.
The owners also want eligibility for unrestricted free agency be bumped up to 10 seasons. Presently, NHL players can qualify for unrestricted free agency after seven seasons.
The owners also want change in the entry-level contract system to accommodate five-year deals. Entry-level players currently get a maximum of three years.
They are also seeking some changes to the definition of hockey-related revenue that would ultimately mean less money for players.
Under the current system, the salary cap is determined based on league revenue, and players are guaranteed to receive 57 percent and teams 43 percent. If player contracts exceed that percentage, players have to give back. If teams didn't spend enough on players, the players would receive more, although that hasn't happened.
The owners' request for reduction in players' revenue share was expected, like what happened during the NBA and NFL negotiations for a new CBA.
NHL Players Association spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said the owners' proposal will be discussed with players over the next few days, and the NHLPA's response would be discussed in next Wednesday's negotiating session.
The two sides are negotiating for a new CBA that would replace the old one which will expire Sept. 15. In 2004, the owners locked out players when no agreement was reached by the expiration of the contract, which eventually led to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
Both sides are hoping to reach a new deal before the deadline to avoid lockout but they have refused to say whether the season will start on time.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the players would be willing to start the season without a deal if negotiations were ongoing.
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