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Owners make concessions; lockout could end soon

CBJ forward R.J. Umberger spends his time during the NHL lockout as a volunteer coach for Ohio State's men's hockey program.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After 32 days of being locked out, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made his first new offer since the beginning of the lockout on Tuesday as the owners are offering a 50/50 split with players on all hockey related revenue.

This offer is an increase of an initial offer of 43 percent over the summer and 47 percent in September. However the 50 percent figure is still far lower than the players’ current rate of 57 percent.

On Wednesday, NHL Players Association boss Donald Fehr and the players he serves mulled over the offer which also increased the age of free agency to 28 and limits all contracts to five years. Also a major component to this deal is there will be no immediate rollback in salaries.

The deal was offered as a last-ditch effort to save a full 82 game season which would mean players would not lose any money from the lockout.

“The fact of the matter is, we offered a 50-50 share of HRR, hockey related revenues,” Bettman said, “and we believe we addressed the concern that players have about what happens to their salaries as a result in this year of reducing the percentage from 57 to 50.”

The NHLPA seemed to have gone into Tuesday’s brief bargaining session believing there would be no movement in the core economic issues separating the players and owners. The urgency to fit an 82-game schedule appears to have driven the owners to this point.

“They would still like to get a full 82-game season in and we of course share that view,” Fehr said. “Our hope is after we review this, there will be a feeling from on the players’ side that this a proposal from which we can negotiate and try and reach a conclusion.”

So far, five Blue Jackets games have been cancelled. This proposal would allow for the Blue Jackets to make up those games later in a compact season.

In a press release from the NHL, the league says that if the deal is not reached by Oct. 25, the NHL might have to cancel signature events. One such event could imply the NHL All-Star game being hosted by Columbus this season could be lost. Losing the All-Star Game would be an economic and emotional blow not only to the Blue Jackets but the city of Columbus.

Franklin County purchased the arena in April for $42.5 million. The hope was twofold: One was to provide a stable future for the Blue Jackets so they would stay and bring economic development to the Arena District; and secondly was to attract events like the NHL All-Star Game.

Meanwhile, most of the members of the Blue Jackets have gone back to their respective hometowns after participating in informal practices in mid-September, around the start of the lockout. Forward R.J. Umberger spent Wednesday morning assisting Ohio State’s hockey team and the afternoon golfing with fellow teammate James Wisniewski.

“I don’t know the full details of the proposal,” Umberger said. “Just whatever (TSN reporter) Bob McKenzie has reported is all I have heard. We will wait and see what our new proposal will be and I am optimistic we have something to work with.”

For Umberger, he is simply ready to get back onto the ice. He had been practicing with Ohio State’s hockey team. Last week, head coach Mark Osiecki and Umberger agreed to allow Umberger to be a volunteer coach of the squad until the lockout concludes.

“We train all summer to peak at a certain time,” Umberger said. “We have to get ready for camp but how do you maintain it or be right back ready when they say it is time to play so it is hard to deal with it.”

Notes:

Though the lockout has prevented those in the NHL from taking the ice, many Blue Jackets prospects are still playing in minor, collegiate, or junior levels of hockey.

The Blue Jackets’ top minor league affiliate in Springfield is off to a 2-0 start thanks in large part to goaltender Curtis McElhinney. McElhinney has started in both contests for the Falcons and has only allowed two goals in two games. Newly acquired prospect Jonathan Audy-Marchessault is among team leaders with three points (1-2-3) through two games.

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