The NHL and NHLPA both have an opportunity to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement at different dates in September, which could begin the clock towards another work stoppage. There are many issues that the players are concerned about when looking at re-negotiating a new CBA, but according to the Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno, the players biggest bargaining issue is some of their money being taken away from them and being placed in escrow.
Under terms of the CBA, the owners and the players divide hockey-related revenue 50/50, but if player salaries exceed that split, then a certain percentage is placed into escrow and the league gets some of that money to keep the revenue even. However, Whyno reports that the players have lost almost 10 percent of their salary to escrow over the past seven years and the players would like to see that change. In fact, the Associated Press surveyed 25 of 31 player representatives, who said that escrow is the biggest worry among players. Chicago Blackhawks representative Jonathan Toews, when asked the two biggest issues in labor talks, said “A. escrow and B. escrow.”
There are a number of other secondary issues the players would like to tackle in negotiations, including Olympic participation, what the definition of hockey-related revenue is, post-career health care, and the concern that young players are squeezing out older players due to cap constraints. However, the loss of salary concerns players the most, according to NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr:
Obviously it’s an irritant to players and from time to time it can be a big one. But the question is how you do it. I mean, you can fix escrow by cutting salaries. I don’t think players are interested in doing that. So it has to become something that you address in a manner which makes sense for the players and addresses their concerns.
Fehr added that escrow has been discussed with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and more talks are expected, but there is no easy way to fix the problem without making major changes to the sports’ economics.