Having contracts honored is huge point for locked-out players in labor fight with owners
There are many aspects of the labor dispute between the NHL players and owners that must be worked out -- revenue sharing, contract lengths, when players can become free agents -- but one of the most important (if not THE most important) for players is that current contracts are honored.
"You sign a deal, the honorable thing to do is keep your word," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said Wednesday after he and six teammates skated at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "That was something that was a huge discussion (among the players) and with everybody. You sign a deal. You want the team to honor it."
The problem is, the league's proposal that cuts the players' share of revenues from 57 to 50 percent also reportedly would immediately reduce player salaries by 12 percent. The way players look at it, they're willing to give back hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the length of a new collective bargaining agreement, they shouldn't have to take pay cuts as well. Players also point to the $200 million worth of player contracts to which owners agreed in the two days before the lockout began on Sept. 16.
And still a raw nerve: players took a 24 percent pay cut after the 2004-05 lockout.
"Guys don't want to go through that again," Lecavalier said. "You sign something. It's a mutual agreement. It should be honored."
"Just do what you say, I guess," Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron said. "It's not our fault if you didn't think of what you were doing before. If I buy a subway and the subway doesn't make as much money, I'm not going to make the employees pay for the losses I'm having. I'm going to fix my business."
The league originally proposed a "make whole" program in which players would be reimbursed over the term of a new CBA for any immediate rollback in salaries. Players objected because the reimbursement would come out of their portion of revenues; in other words, players paying themselves. According to multiple reports, the league stepped away from that in the current round of talks, saying it would absorb part of or all the reimbursement, though no further details were available.
It is believed the "make whole" provision was central topic for negotiations Wednesday in New York.
"You made those deals in good faith," Lighting right wing Teddy Purcell said. "That's one part of it I don't get, especially all the deals leading up to the deadline, minutes before, and then they're trying to say 10 minutes later they wanted to role them back. ... It's definitely one of the main points."
"When you sign a contract, it's a mutual decision," Bergeron said. "They didn't have a gun to their head when they gave us what we have."