TORONTO, CANADA // National Hockey League players have put forward a counterproposal to an offer made to them by team owners in July as the latest dispute between the two parties enters its final month before a threatened lockout.
Don Fehr, the NHL Players Association executive director said players were willing to surrender some revenue over three years to keep the contract system intact.
"Players want a new collective bargaining agreement, and they want it soon, but obviously it has to be one which is fair and equitable to the players as well as to the owners," Fehr said.
"We do believe that the proposal the players made today, once implemented, can produce a stable industry, one that, going forward, can give us a chance to move beyond the current labour strife that has plagued the NHL for the last two decades."
Fehr said that revenue sharing in the new proposal could involve upwards of $250 million and said reduced player compensation over the three-year span could range from $465-800 million depending on the league's revenues.
"What we're suggesting is that the players partner with the less financially strong owners to help stabilise the owners and assist the less financially strong ownership groups," Fehr said.
Fehr said the players' proposal keeps the NHL's salary cap in place with minor exceptions that would not increase the overall percentage of revenues that go to players.
"There are a number of people who wondered if the way to solve any problems would be to eliminate the salary cap and let each club pay based on its own resources and control its own budget with enhanced revenue sharing," Fehr said.
"The owners are not interested in that approach and our desire is to try to make an agreement."
Fehr expects NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to review the players' proposal over the next few days.
Bettman has said the league is prepared to lock out players if there is no new deal in place by September 15.
The NHL had two prior long lockouts under Bettman, one that shortened the 1994-1995 season and the other that wiped out the entire 2004-2005 season.