Hotel chains, beer drinkers, fans who like European travel and the parents of players making their NHL debut have a lot to like in the new collective bargaining agreement.
While core economic issues commanded the headlines during the four-month labor fight between the NHL and its players’ association, the sides quietly slipped new, improved and interesting items into the CBA. There are tweaks to everything from training camp to insurance coverage to intermission breaks.
Among the notable (or just plain wacky):
• Intermissions during regular-season games are increasing to 18 minutes from 17. Falling under the category of “Ice Conditions,” the new CBA reduces on-ice activities from five minutes to four, leaving 14 minutes for resurfacing and setting of the ice. It also gives more fans time to buy drinks without missing the game.
• Under the heading “Regular Season and Preseason International Games,” each club will be required to participate in at least one international trip during the 10-year term of the CBA. The Buffalo Sabres went to Germany and Finland during the 2011-12 season, and they now have another overseas journey in their future.
• Every player not on an entry-level contract will get his own hotel room on the road. Under the old CBA, only players with 10 seasons or more than 600 games were eligible for their own room.
• The Christmas break, formerly Dec. 24-25, will now last three days. The day after Christmas will be an off day, unless it falls on Saturday. In that case, the league will shut down Dec. 23.
• The sides eliminated dollar limitations for parental travel to entry-level players’ first games. Teams may reimburse all reasonable expenses associated with parental travel and lodging.
• Every team must supply a minimum of eight shovelers for in-period ice maintenance, and teams must use their best effort to utilize shovelers with skates.
• The NHL and NHLPA will establish an “Owner-Player Relations Committee,” which will meet at least twice a year on how best to grow the game for the mutual benefit of the parties and fans.
• Re-entry waivers have been eliminated, meaning players with one-way contracts no longer need to pass through the other 29 teams twice to travel between the NHL and American Hockey League. Teams, often fearful of losing players on a call-up, left them in the minors rather than risk losing them.
• Each team must employ at least two full-time athletic trainers, and at least one must be on the bench at all times during games and practices. Clubs also have to provide massage therapist services at home and on the road.
• The NHL will provide the NHLPA with an annual “credit” to reimburse players affected by the Tennessee Professional Privilege Tax for Athletes, which is levied against NHL and NBA players whenever they play in the state. The tax on each player (whether he dresses or not) is $2,500 per game, up to a maximum of three games. The league also has agreed to lobby with the union to have the law (and any similar legislation in other states) repealed.
• Teams need to pay players via direct deposit, which saves the Sabres’ Tyler Myers the trouble of trying to cash his $10 million signing bonus at a local bank.
• The players’ playoff pool will increase from $6.5 million to $13 million this season. It will rise every two years, topping out at $17 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
• The Sabres’ custom of announcing practice times or days off in the wee hours of the morning when the team returns from a road game will change.
With the new CBA, all clubs need to schedule no less than four days off (two at home and two on the road) for players during each full calendar month. Players will be notified prior to the start of each month which days they will be off, and the team’s schedule should not be altered absent compelling circumstances.
• Players who reach milestones (such as 1,000 games or 500 goals) will get pricier gifts. The prior limit of $7,500 for milestone awards will be increased to $25,000.
• Teams will be required to play between six and eight preseason games. That begins next season because the sides started this season four months late while negotiating rules like that.