The Florida Panthers are due to begin training camp four weeks from Thursday, on Sept. 13, and open the regular season one month later at home against the Lightning.
That timetable is on thin ice due to the tenor of labor talks that can only be described as predictable.
A lockout would be extra harmful for the resurgent Panthers, coming off their most successful season in years, as noted this week in Forbes. The possibility is all too real with the gap wide between owners and players.
Negotiations to replace the current collective bargaining agreement that expires Sept. 15 have quickly taken on the echo of discord reverberating from last year’s NFL and NBA labor bloodlettings.
This week the players submitted a proposal in which they would receive a reduction in hockey-related revenue from 57 to 54 percent. NHL Commission Gary Bettman indignantly harrumphed that the players’ concessions didn’t go nearly far enough.
The owners want the players to reduce their share to 43 percent.
Bettman said he’s seeking a deal modeled after those reached by the NFL and NBA, and is already brandishing the lockout threat.
The difference is that NHL players already took a 24 percent rollback in salaries in 2005. The league wants them to swallow the same bitter pill again.
NHL players union boss Donald Fehr wondered why Bettman made no mention of the labor deal Major League Baseball reached last year with no saber rattling or threat of work stoppage.
Fehr, long-time boss of the baseball players’ union, is not advocating doing away with hockey’s hard salary cap.
The union did offer an expanded revenue-sharing plan to provide up to $250 million a year to teams in financial difficulty. That would be partially facilitated by the players lowering their share of league revenue. That is a concept the rich teams have not embraced.
Meanwhile, the league collectively is looking to stick it to the players. Other provisions in the latest owners’ proposal include increasing the number of seasons needed to become unrestricted free agents from seven to 10 years, and eliminating salary arbitration.
All of which adds up to a wide gulf with a month to go before training camp. Talks aren’t even set to resume until next Wednesday.