The 2012-13 New York Rangers congregated at Riverside Park Sunday morning. Whether it was for the first time this season or the only time is to be determined.
“The New York Rangers camp is ready to go on [Sept. 21]. We’re chomping on the bit to get going here. If they say ‘No,’ we’ll wait [until] they say ‘Yes,’” coach John Tortorella said about the state of the NHL labor talks prior to a charity event to assist the Westchester Humane Society. “I really don’t have much information.”
The collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight Saturday and commissioner Gary Bettman has said the players will be locked out if a new CBA is not in place. A lockout would be the third in 18 years and the fourth work stoppage in 20 years.
At the heart of the negotiation between the league and the NHLPA is how to split a financial pie that has grown exponentially every year following the 2004-05 lockout. In 2005-06, the league announced a then-record $2.1 billion in revenues, and Bettman said prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final this year that the league reported $3.3 billion in revenues during the 2011-12 season.
Bettman has argued that despite the rise in revenues there are “systemic” problems with “core economics” and the owners are unwilling to play the 2012-13 season under the existing CBA. The league has claimed that its non-player costs (coaches and executives’ salaries and arena costs, for example) require that the players’ share of hockey related revenues drop substantially.
Players earned 57 percent of HRR last season, which prompted Bettman to say they aren’t permanently “entitled” to make that much following a recent bargaining session at the league’s Midtown offices.
The league has presented six-year offers to the players that offered 43-57 and 46-54 splits, while the NHLPA has countered with four-year proposals in which the players would take a lesser monetary amount in the first three years but revert back to 57-43 in the final year.
The history of labor strife has created a pessimistic atmosphere that the season will start on time.
“Everyone that talks about it now, it seems like there’s a bit of a negative spin put on it but when you get down to crunch time, it’s interesting how these guys try to get together,” Tortorella said. “I'm very optimistic that things get done here and we get playing.”
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.