Today, Tom Gulitti of NHL.com and Amanda Stein of NewJerseyDevils.com wrote that the NHL and the Players’ Association have “agreed in principle on a memorandum of understanding for a four-year extension of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, through the 2025-26 season, and protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL Return to Play Plan with the intention of resuming games Aug. 1” according to Gulitti.
Gulitti said that Phase 3 of the Return to Play Plan begins with the “opening of training camps in the teams’ local markets” and is scheduled for July 13. He then said that the beginning of Phase 4 will see teams “travel July 26 to one of two hub cities, where they will begin Phase 4, the resumption of play, with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers starting Aug. 1. The hub cities have not been announced.”
Now on to more pressing issues regarding the Devils, who will not be a part of the Qualifiers or the Playoffs: the CBA.
The CBA extension are, as Gulitti pointed out, “subject to ratification by the NHL Board of Governors and NHLPA membership. The NHLPA is expected to conduct a vote among the players over the next 3-5 days.”
The old CBA, which was ratified following a lock out in January 2013, was set to expire on September 15, 2022. This extension, Gulitti says, would push that expiration to September 15, 2026 and avoid any kind of labor dispute this time around.
Gulitti notes that the extension will “enable planning for an international calendar and events including the NHL All-Star Game, NHL Winter Classic and NHL Stadium Series.” By “international calendar,” one could assume he is talking about either a return to the Winter Olympics by NHL players, a World Cup of Hockey in the timeframe, or, perhaps, both.
Both sides declined the “option to reopen this agreement in September 2019, a move that would have triggered its expiration Sept. 15, 2020” according to Gulitti and had many fans thinking doom and gloom regarding another labor stoppage.
But, Gulitti said that the talks “continued after the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding coronavirus and have been a part of the process of determining the NHL Return to Play Plan, which was announced May 26 and will include 24 teams competing for the Stanley Cup.”
Stein backed that up in her article on the Devils’ website. The NHL and the NHLPA made getting a new CBA done as part of the negotiations for getting back to playing. She said that the “NHLPA will be voting on both the CBA and the Return to Play agreement as one package, meaning one cannot be rejected while the other is accepted. The vote will be all-encompassing, regardless of whether a player is participating in the Return to Play this summer or not.”
Stein said that the new CBA will be ratified by both the Players’ Association and the NHL Board of Governors. “The Players Union will hold a full membership vote withing 72-hours,” she wrote. She also pointed out that “every NHL player would receive a vote with the majority ruling.”
Should everything go as planned and the CBA gets ratified – and I have a hard time seeing why not considering the NHL wants to get back on the ice and would have to have enticed the NHLPA to do so with a favorable CBA – this is fantastic news. The NHL has been plagued by labor issues for the last quarter century or so. You could set your calendar by when the NHL was in a strike or (more likely) a lock out.
This will hopefully avoid that this go-around and we will have hockey to look forward to until at least 2026!