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NHLPA declines CBA opt-out, ensures labor peace in hockey for three years

There will be labor peace in North American pro hockey for at least three more years after the NHL Players Association declined to exercise a right to reopen a 10-year collective bargaining agreement early.

The move follows an August 30 decision by the NHL to also waive its right to reopen the deal, which was ratified in January 2013 and will expire September 15, 2022. The union had until September 16 to make its decision. Either side choosing to reopen the deal would have meant the labor deal expiring in September 2020, after the upcoming season, and two years early.

“While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA executive director. “We have been discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue.”

Meetings between the two sides have been happening for more than six months, accelerating in frequency since the start of summer.

That each side elect to waive their early opt-out rights is a marked departure from the sport’s recent labor past in which it has had work stoppages prior each of the last three labor deals, losing games in both the 2012-13 and 1994-95 seasons, and the entire 2004-05 season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, upon announcing the league’s prior move to waive its opt-out, said, “our analysis makes clear that the benefits of continuing to operate under the terms fo the current CBA – while working with the Players Association to address our respective concerns – far outweigh the disruptive consequences of terminating it following the upcoming season.”

 Key issues at play between the NHL and union include the definition of hockey-related revenue, health care, participation in the Olympics, and escrow payments.