Last week we covered transfer payments in the NHL CBA, which lays out how a player can be compensated for expenses he incurs while being moved between cities. Today we'll go over the part of the CBA which covers how teams can go about holding their annual training camps as far as how hard they can work which players and how they must treat them.
This one is pretty dry. I'll try to cover the high overhead look first and then get into the nitty-gritty.
Article 15 - Training Camp; Travel Expenses
Teams hold training camps every year to get ready for the season. Players get back into the grind of things, new guys get brought up to speed, linemates meet each other, rookies compete for spots on the squad, and all-in-all nobody really has any fun. The CBA specifically limits how long training camps may be (20 days for veterans, 27 for rookies), but doesn't specifically enforce a minimum length nor does it specifically say when camps start.
Teams do have to provide two months' of availability to a player returning to his summer home, according to this article, but the start of camps is more dictated by when the regular season starts and the generalized flow of the hockey offseason than by codified rules in the CBA. Teams don't hold training camps in mid-August because that would be dumb.
So, when training camps do start, the Clubs have to pay for their players to get there and pay for their lodging/meals during the camp. Veterans get slightly better treatment in terms of what they're entitled to and protected from, but no matter what, the first day of camp is dedicated to off-ice stuff including physicals, fitness testing, team photos, and other PR junk. After that, players can't be made to go through more than 1.75 hours of on-ice and more than 1.25 hours of off-ice activities for four more days.
Also during camp, players get a mandatory two days off (one in the first half of camp, the other in the second half). They don't all have to be the same day off and it can't be a day where a team travels immediately after a game unless they hit their destination by 2AM.
Yes, it sounds like they're a bit coddled, but remember that the Standard Player's Contract specifically puts the onus for a player to stay in shape on the player and they're all grown men here. The days of players using training camp to get completely back into shape are gone. Nowadays, staying in game condition is their year-round job and they can be suspended for being out of shape. There's no need for it to be a boot camp.
The sweet, sweet nectar of the preseason for us fans. They're actually playing hockey games! Clubs can have no fewer than six and no more than eight exhibition games in a season and players can't be forced into playing one in the first three days of camp or into playing exhibition games on three consecutive days.
Teams can dress a minimum of eight veterans for exhibition games. Here's what they call a veteran for these purposes:
- A forward or defenseman who played in 30 games last season (pro-rated to 18)
- A goalie who dressed in 50 games or played in 30 (prorated to 30 and 18)
- The team's most-recent first-round draft choice (Anthony Mantha)
- Any player with at least 100 NHL games played
While not directly tied to exhibition games, clubs may not hold training camps (and by extension exhibition games) outside of North America without the NHLPA's permission to do so.
Injuries & Pay Calculations
If a player is injured in camp or prior to camp and has 50 games played for the purpose of Pension Plan credit or is on a one-way SPC, he gets paid his full salary. For everybody else, his salary will be a mix of his minor and major-league salaries based on how many days he spent in both the previous year. If a guy split his time 50/50 between the majors and minors the last season, then he'll get paid the average of the two different salaries paid as a daily rate calculated by how many days are in the current season (Usually around 185 or so).
If it's his first year or he otherwise doesn't qualify for play in the minors (18 or 19 year old from the CHL), his minor league rate will be calculated as the max salary attributable to players in the major juniors.
Entitlement to Obtain a Residence
We've gone over this a few other places, it's defined here. Any player who has been with a club for at least 160 NHL games (including injury) and who has been with his current team for 40 or more NHL games is automatically entitled to obtain a residence (and therefore qualifies for any other program which pertains to player housing). Of course, teams may tell him to obtain one at any time.
For players who haven't qualified, the 28/56 day rule we went over in Article 13 applies. Essentially, the team pays for a hotel for 28 days which can be extended to 56 if they haven't decided on his fate by then. After that, they either have to send him back down or he can get a place.
Fitness Testing/Conditioning Camp
The CBA lays out pretty well that there's a concern about asinine and/or dangerous fitness tests. If a player doubts the relevancy, legitimacy, or safety of a test that a team comes up with, he can bring his concerns up to Hockey Ops and they'll look into it.
For Conditioning Camp, teams can use 7 days in either June or July to put kids on the ice, like we just saw the Red Wings do. The players who may take part are as follows:
- Unsigned draft choices
- Entry-Level Players with fewer than 120 total NHL games played and fewer than 70 NHL games played in the previous season
- Draft-Related UFAs
- Players who were draft-eligible in the last draft, but who weren't selected
- Any non-Entry-Level Player who finished last season injured & submits a written request to be allowed to join (as was the case with Darren Helm).
Players can spend no more than 3 hours per day on the ice and cannot be forced to attend more than 3 camps for the same team (although they may elect to do so). Camps have to be held at places where the arena and lodging are at a "suitable standard for professional hockey players" and the players get the per diem meal allowances paid to them.
Other than specifically laid out, no club may hold a voluntary or mandatory conditioning camp of any other kind during the offseason.
Players must ask permission to be absent 5 days in advance and the club must give their decision on whether he will be excused 48 hours later. If no, they have to warn him that his pay will be docked. The player can then move forward and get himself suspended or he can change his mind about not showing up. This holds true regardless of whether it happens before or after camp starts. Teams can't suspend a player until he actually refuses to perform his contractual obligations.
For every day of camp a player misses, his salary is lowered for cap-calculation purposes by 1/275th. He won't be paid while he's suspended and that suspension can reasonably extend beyond his willing return to the club (for disciplinary purposes), but the team gets an ever-so-slight cap benefit from having such a guy causing them trouble.
A player who has permission to be absent won't be paid for his absence, but he can't be suspended beyond it and won't see his salary reduced by that 1/275th calculation for cap hit purposes.
The NHL and NHLPA jointly sponsor a Rookie Orientation Program which teaches youngsters the ins and outs of being a professional hockey player. Teams can select three Entry-Level Players to send to this program, whose planning and costs is to be split between the NHL and NHLPA.
Players with 50 NHL games of experience have to be put on waivers before they can be made to play a minor-league exhibition game.
Only players outside the Entry-Level system are entitled to get a room all to themselves at camp. Also, those players get business class airfare for flights over 3 hours from their summer residences to camp. Everybody else flies economy class. If the player wants to spring for anything nicer, he'll get reimbursement for economy class airfare.
The Clubs will also fly the Player's wife, significant other, and children economy class from the summer residence to the home city when the regular season starts and back to the summer residence when the team's season ends.
If the player and his family want to drive instead of fly, then the reasonable travel expenses they incur on their cross-country adventure will be reimbursed. I seriously doubt this includes roadside carnivals, but the CBA doesn't specifically say it doesn't, so who knows?
If a player lives close enough to where camp is being held (in or in the vicinity of the Club's home city), a player can elect to live at home during camp and not get to have cool hotel slumber parties or get paid for lodging.
If clubs give breakfast and/or lunch to players during camp, their per diem is reduced by $12 for breakfast and $15 for lunch. I expect they're eating more than enough to cover twelve bucks' worth of bacon & eggs.
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So there you go: everything you wanted to know about that topic. Next week we'll have schedule, roster, and practice rules as covered in Article 16.