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Thursday, July 14, 2005 

Power Play

The NHL labor agreement was summarized pretty well by Kevin Paul Dupont in today's Boston Globe:

The deal the sides agreed to yesterday -- pending ratification by both sides -- is an entirely new way of doing business. It will take at least a couple of years to understand all the ramifications, big and small, and what it will mean for the owners, the players, the general managers, the agents, and even the fans. All we know now is that the owners achieved their goal -- true payroll cost certainty -- and the players, for all their never-gonna-do-it proclamations, surrendered their free-market payroll system for unrestricted free agency that will trigger as early as age 27 or 28 by the end of the six-year deal.

Warning: The above is an oversimplification, to say the least. The new collective bargaining agreement, some 600 pages thick, represents a lot more than a salary cap-for-free agency swap. But at its core, that is the wholesale quid pro quo in the new deal. The owners, some of whom seemed hellbent on pushing their individual team payrolls over $100 million, now know no one among them can spend close to even half that amount. The players, who previously couldn't select their place of employment until age 31, will get to the open market three or four years earlier.

This is pretty much the bargain the NFL has with its players. A cap with both a floor and a ceiling (min and max $ amounts) plus increased free agency rights. Now if only the NHL owners and players can improve the game on the ice, maybe they'll become one of the top four major sports again.

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