A lot of star power descended on Toronto Tuesday for an NHL Players' Association meeting and subsequent presentation of a new collective bargaining agreement outline to the NHL.
Among the 23 players present were Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.
And something intangible.
"There was a lot of optimism in that room," said Penguins forward and the team's union representative, Craig Adams.
After the NHL took what could be considered a hard line in its proposed new CBA a month ago, the NHLPA might have swung public sentiment in its favor with its ideas.
But, Adams said, "It's not about perception. We took a long time to look at the facts. We think [this proposal] addressed areas of concerns while still maintaining [players' interests]."
The current CBA expires Sept. 15, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has indicated that management will not enter the 2012-13 season without a new CBA, meaning there could be a lockout without an agreement.
The NHLPA spent about 30 minutes presenting what executive director Donald Fehr called an "alternative proposal."
The players agreed to keep a salary cap with a few exceptions and roll back their share of league revenue an unspecified amount from the current 57 percent.
They proposed maintaining other contract rules. Fehr said the union reviewed a "significant amount" of financial information from the league and responded with a proposal that addressed "core economic issues."
The idea, Fehr said, is to help franchises that are struggling financially, in part with the temporary concessions by the players, but also with league revenue sharing to the tune of around $250 million per year. League revenues reached a record $3.3 billion last season.
The union's proposal is for three years, with the players holding an option to revert to the current CBA for an ensuing year. Adams said the NHLPA's vision involves the players "partnering with bigger-revenue clubs" to help stabilize the struggling teams.
"I like it a lot," Crosby said.
"It addresses the issues that the league has and it makes sure that as players we do our part to help those [financially struggling] teams, but also holds teams accountable.
"At the end of the day, it's going to take both."
The NHL's initial proposal last month -- widely seen as a shot across the bow -- included, among other things, reducing the players' take of league revenue to 46 percent, postponing unrestricted free agency until after a player's 10th season, abolishing arbitration, mandating that a player have the same yearly salary throughout the course of a contract, and extending the maximum entry-level contract to five years.
Bettman indicated he gathered that the NHLPA's proposal was made over time and with thought and said the league would digest it fully before responding.
Fehr, the former longtime head of the MLB players union, insisted the union isn't looking for a protracted battle.
"The players want a new CBA, and they want it soon," he said, but declined to offer a prediction on whether or when that might happen.
Adams predicted only that things will proceed at a pace that allows for careful thought with every move.
"Everything's going to be well calculated on both sides," he said. "It's a long process. I don't think it's going to get solved [today]. We realize it's serious business."
Crosby isn't bracing for a lockout -- yet.
"I think it's a little too early for that," he said. "We've got the first proposal, and this is a little bit of a new direction. We'll see as time goes along."
First Published August 15, 2012 4:00 AM