NHL to snatch player salaries, battles with Isles over jerseys

Two bits of Gary Bettman goodness this morning. First up is a visit to the exciting world of NHL Players Association escrow paybacks, as David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail (again taking time from his reporting on fake Twitter feeds) writes that players will have to give back about 13 percent of their salaries this year because revenue projections weren't met by the owners.

The catch is that since the NHLPA raised its escrow withholdings, players will actually get a bit of a refund this summer. From Shoalts and his interview with PA chief Paul Kelly:

If the union and league projections prove to be correct, the players will keep just 87 per cent of this year's salaries. That would be after they receive a refund of about 5 per cent of their salaries plus interest, Kelly said in an e-mail message. "This is not etched in stone," Kelly said, "and is based on the currently available data and reasonable financial projections by the league and the member clubs."

The escrow payments will hurt the league's lower-paid players the most. A player earning the NHL minimum of $475,000 (all currency U.S.) will see his salary shrink to $413,250 with the 13-per-cent escrow payment.

Poor bastards ... Rich Peverley gotta eat, you know?

Much more interesting, though slightly less imperative, is the battle brewing between the New York Islanders and the NHL over next season's jerseys.

For the first time since drafting Kyle Okposo in 2006, the Islanders finally did something right: Bringing back a classic royal blue jersey as their third jersey this season. Quite popular with the fans, the Isles want to elevate it to primary jersey status for next season. But the NHL has rules, and marketing partnerships, that apparently prevent such requests from getting approved.

More about that in a moment; first, a question for the puckheads: Now that we've seen the new crop of third jerseys for a season, which ones deserve to be elevated to permanent status? The St. Louis Blues jerseys come to mind, no?

Back on the Islanders, Chris Botta's NYI Point Blank broke the news that the Islanders will have the same jersey rotation next year as they had this season "barring a last-second, long-shot, precedent-setting decision by the NHL"; despite asking the League for permission to wear their retro third jerseys as their permanent sweaters beginning in 2009-10.

Alas, it appears the request will be denied, and Point Blank explains why:

The reason for the lack of immediate fan gratification is timing. The merchandising division of the NHL requires teams to apply for a primary jersey change two full years before the switch. The Islanders' popular Third Jerseys were completed in time for this season. Filing the paperwork with the league before the deadline was impossible.


The Islanders, well aware of the hallelujahs from their fanbase, have appealed to the league for approval to make this year's Third Jersey their No. 1. (Of course, the team would have to create a white "road" version to match the home blues). As of this date, the league is not willing to break the rule. Among many reasons, there are too many hurdles with manufacturers and distributors - and too little time.

What this boils down to is the League battling a team over its marketing desires and decisions. If this were MSG and the Dolans, we might be seeing a lawsuit; but the Islanders apparently will allow the process to play out and hope to have the retro jerseys adopted for 2010-11.

In a way, the timing might be perfect: Getting new sweaters for a "rebirth" season of Islanders hockey as the young crop of players mature.

On the other hand ... shouldn't teams like the Islanders, who have their obvious marketing challenges and hurdles, have the right to push this sort of thing through the red tape if it's beneficial to the franchise?

But the League knows who butters its bread. It's not the NHL Store Powered by the New York Islanders, after all.

H/T UniWatch for the Isles news bit.

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