Wednesday, October 8, 2014

FINALLY! What Does The Move To The ECHL Mean - The Details

The new ECHL map courtesy of Minor League Hockey Report
Many CHL fans have been wishing for the day that there would be only one AA league in hockey and yesterday that wish came true. It came in the form of the seven remaining CHL teams being accepted as expansion teams in the ECHL. Today general managers, coaches, and communications/broadcasting directors meet in Chicago to get all of the details, policies, and protocols for operating in the ECHL. If you haven't already done so, please go to Minor League Hockey Report and listen to the podcast that was posted last night at it provides some good information.

- Before talking about the ECHL it is important to recall what a great experience the last five years have been with the CHL Allen Americans. It was quite the ride with three trips to the Presidents' Cup finals, two Governor's Cups and of course back to back championships. It has been a lot of fun being a blogger with what has been a tight knit group from around the CHL. One can't help but reflect on all of the negative impacts this move has had on fans, players, coaches, front office staffs, and arena employees in Arizona, Denver and St. Charles. Don't know what the future holds for the CHL headquarters employees or if any of them find jobs in the ECHL but I can honestly say they went out of their way to answer any question posed and did a lot of hand holding, educating, and explaining to this novice blogger. Bob Hoffman and Jim Wiley always went above and beyond the call of duty in helping. Lastly, the veteran players that have come through Allen over the last five years have been great to interview and always willing to share their experiences and love for the game of hockey. Guys like Adam Pineault, Darryl Bootland, Kip Brennan, Erik Adams, and Jarret Lukin. It is sad to know that there are so many fewer veteran slots available because of teams going dark and the reduced veteran limits in the ECHL.

-- The Allen Americans are so fortunate they have Steve Martinson as their coach through this transition as his eighteen years of head coaching experience (which  includes eight championships) will be put to the test. Martinson has coached in the CHL and ECHL and was also the head coach of the San Diego Gulls back in 2003 when the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) was absorbed by the ECHL. The first year in the ECHL Martinson coached the Gulls to a record of 49-13-0-10 which may still be a record for first year teams in the ECHL. Bottom line is there is not a better coach in the country with the experience to deal with what the Americans are about to go through. And he has been planning for this outcome all summer so he is well prepared. When you combine the attractiveness of playing in the Dallas area with the facility and add that the team is now in the ECHL it is a combination that is a great recruiting tool.

- The fact that the CHL teams are expansion teams in the ECHL and this is not considered a merger would indicate that there will be no "transition" rules which is significant. Veteran rules, critical dates, contracts are all the same for the new and old.

- The one exception to the "live by the ECHL rules" has to be the granting of rights for those ECHL players that signed in the off season with the seven CHL teams. Legally the ECHL could say all of those players revert back to the ECHL teams that have their rights. There must be something agreed upon  that allows the CHL teams to retain those players.

- Since the CHL no longer exists all of the players under CHL contracts or on CHL protected lists are free agents. Until they sign the new ECHL contract they could theoretically sign with any ECHL club. There is no expectation that many players will take this option but it is certainly available for players that don't like their current situation as long as they can find another team that wants them.

- Final rosters for the seven expansion teams will be due at the same as the other ECHL teams (3:00 pm October 15) even though the former CHL teams will start camp later than the other teams. This means a five day camp for most teams. Since final rosters are due the 15th look for some preseason games scheduled on or after October 15 to be moved to prior to October 15.  The Rapid City Rush have already done this for one of their preseason games with the Colorado Eagles.

- Another possible area of player movement is with players who liked the teams they played for in the CHL last year but felt they would have a better chance of getting to the AHL if they signed with an ECHL team. Now that their CHL team is in the ECHL they have a desire to return. Not an easy task as this will have to be accomplished through waivers or trades but look for some players to return to their team from last year.

- Joe Babik, Director of Communications for the ECHL indicated the schedule, new divisional alignment and playoff format should be released this week.

- At the risk of being redundant here are some of the differences/changes now that the former CHL teams are in the ECHL:

-  There has been much discussion about the veteran rules but to state it one more time the CHL allowed six vets and defined a vet as over 300 professional games while the ECHL is four veterans and 260 games. The impact of this on teams that were over the limit has already started with some veteran player announcing their retirement. As mentioned in a prior post between the three CHL teams that went dark this year and the lower ECHL vet limit there are at least 32 fewer veteran slots available compared to last year in the CHL.

- Roster size and salary caps are very similar between the leagues especially with the changes the CHL was planning for the upcoming season but there are differences. The ECHL active roster can be 21 for the first 30 days of the season and then drops to 20. This compares to the CHL which this year was going to have an active roster size of 19. These numbers do not include injured reserve players.

- The CHL salary cap was going to be $12,000 per week this year while the ECHL salary cap for 2014-2015 is $12,615 for the first 30 days of the season (because of the one extra roster spot) and then drops to $12,200.

- The rookie salary cap (maximum you can pay a rookie) is $550 in the CHL and only $510 in the ECHL so all of the rookies already signed in the CHL at the max salary will be taking a small salary cut.

- As for season ticket holders the best solution for what will be three additional home games (the CHL has a 66 game schedule while the ECHL plays 72 games) is to allow season ticket holders to buy those games on a game by game basis at their season ticket price. This is the most likely approach in Allen. This may be a team by team decision.

- The ECHL has had an agreement with CCM (a subsidiary of Reebok which is owned by Adidas)  for many years to provide all on ice equipment (sticks, visors, helmets, gloves and trousers) and last year became the exclusive provider of home and away jerseys for the ECHL. The CHL teams will be given sometime (maybe the end of the year) to use the equipment they have already ordered for the upcoming season.

-  The ECHL signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) last year with a five year duration which doesn't expire until June 30, 2018. A big improvement from the year to year CBA in the CHL.  All of the dollar amounts (salary cap, minimum salaries, per diem, playoff pool, etc) have been negotiated for all five years.

- As mentioned above the ECHL salary cap for 2014-2015 is $12,200 per week but there is also a salary floor which is $9100 per week.

- There is also a minimum salary in the ECHL and for this season it is $415 per week for players with fewer than 25 games and $460 per week for all other players. The CHL minimums for the 2013-2014 season were $345 for those with less than 25 games and $390 for those with more than 25 games.

- Per Diem when on the road is $39 per day in the ECHL for the upcoming season compared to $31 last year in the CHL.

- In the CHL player's medical insurance ended seven days after the conclusion of the season. In the ECHL it is effective to June 30th.

Finally, if you really want to get into the weeds here is an overview of the entire ECHL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) including how the money amounts increase over the life of the contract. This info is courtesy of the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA).

What is the length of the CBA?
The CBA is five (5) years in duration, beginning July 1, 2013 and expiring June 30, 2018.
What is an Active Roster?
An active roster consists of a maximum of twenty (20) Players who have signed a Standard Player Contract (SPC) or have been assigned or loaned to the ECHL Club by an NHL/AHL team. A Player on Injured Reserve is not on the active roster. For the first thirty (30) days following the commencement of the season, the Active Roster shall mean a maximum of twenty-one (21) Players.
Is there a Salary Cap in the ECHL?
Yes. The weekly Salary Cap to be shared amongst all Players on the Active Roster shall be as follows:
First 30 Days of Season (due to one extra roster slot):
  1. 2013/14- $12,400 US
  2. 2014/15- $12,615 US
  3. 2015/16- $12,830 US
  4. 2016/17- $13,045 US
  5. 2017/18- $13,260 US
Balance of Season:
  1. 2013/14- $12,000 US
  2. 2014/15- $12,200 US
  3. 2015/16- $12,400 US
  4. 2016/17- $12,600 US
  5. 2017/18- $12,800 US
The salary cap is higher for the first 30 days of the Season due to the one extra roster slot available.
What is a Rookie Salary Cap?
The Rookie Salary Cap is the maximum weekly allowable salary for a Player who has played fewer than 25 regular season professional games. The amounts are as follows:
  1. 2013/14- $500 US
  2. 2014/15- $510 US
  3. 2015/16- $520 US
  4. 2016/17- $530 US
  5. 2017/18- $540 US
What is a Salary Floor?
The Salary Floor is the minimum total salary paid by a Member Club to Players on the Active Roster. The amounts are as follows:
  1. 2013/14- $8,900 US
  2. 2014/15- $9,100 US
  3. 2015/16- $9,300 US
  4. 2016/17- $9,500 US
  5. 2017/18- $9,700 US
Is there a Weekly Minimum Salary a Player will earn in the ECHL?
Yes. For a Player who has played in fewer than 25 regular season professional hockey games at the beginning of the Season who has signed a Standard Player Contract and who was not on an ECHL team’s End of Season roster:
  1. 2013/14- $400 US
  2. 2014/15- $415 US
  3. 2015/16- $430 US
  4. 2016/17- $445 US
  5. 2017/18- $460 US
For all other Players:
  1. 2013/14- $450 US
  2. 2014/15- $460 US
  3. 2015/16- $480 US
  4. 2016/17- $500 US
  5. 2017/18- $500 US
How is the allocation of the playoff pool determined?
Any Player participating in the playoffs or on the club's injured reserve continues to get paid salary. The Playoff Pool is payment in addition to Salary, paid by the team from the required contributions of all ECHL teams participating in the Playoffs. The Playoff Pool shall be allocated for distribution among the Players on the Active Roster as the Players and the PHPA shall elect.
  1. 2013/14- $255,000 US
  2. 2014/15- $260,000 US
  3. 2015/16- $265,000 US
  4. 2016/17- $270,000 US
  5. 2017/18- $275,000 US
What is the Per Diem Allowance for ECHL Players?
The per diem allowance for each Player accompanying his team while he is away from his home arena in excess of 25 miles for the purpose of playing a mandatory practice, regular season, or post-season game is as follows:
  1. 2013/14- $38 per day
  2. 2014/15- $39 per day
  3. 2015/16- $40 per day
  4. 2016/17- $42 per day
  5. 2017/18- $42 per day
If the team is on a road trip of five (5) consecutive days, the team is required to provide an additional dinner or pre-game meal in addition to the payments above.
In addition, when a team plays a home game and immediately leaves its Home Arena to play a road game, the team must provide each Player with a meal or a fifteen dollar ($15) per diem payment.
How long is Training Camp?
Training Camp shall not open prior to fourteen (14) calendar days before the league’s first regular season game, and will end at 11:59PM EST on the day before the first Regular Season game. All players shall receive per diem payment for meals, or 3 meals per day provided by team through the end of training camp, or until the player is released. The team shall provide, at its expense, reasonable and appropriate lodging to all Players and Invitees who participate in training camp.
Is a Player required to pay his own Moving Expenses during the Season?
Any Player who is traded, claimed, or assigned during the season shall receive reimbursement for reasonable moving expenses for the Player, Spouse, and his children from the acquiring team. In the event the Player is traded during a road trip, the acquiring team shall reimburse and allow the Player to return to the prior Home territory in order to secure his personal effects.
What is a Veteran and is there a limit on how many can be on an Active Roster?
Each team shall be limited to four (4) Veterans on its Active Roster. A Veteran shall mean a Player, other than a goaltender, who has played in at least 260 regular season games of professional hockey.
What is a Player Assistant Coach?
Each team may designate one Player as the Player Assistant Coach during the Season, but such designation shall be at no additional compensation or benefits except as provided in the CBA.
What is the Reserve System?
Each team reserves the rights to all Players on its Protected List during the Season until 11:59PM Eastern Time on June 15. No player on a team’s Season Ending Roster shall be traded by a Member after June 15 at 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time. At this time, all trades from the previous season, including trades for future considerations, shall be considered final.
A team shall only be entitled to reserve Rights to a maximum of eight (8) Qualified Players. Of these eight (8) Qualified Players, no more than four (4) of the Qualified Players shall be Veterans. “Qualified Player” shall mean a Player who is listed on a team’s Season Ending Roster who has received a Qualifying Offer from that team. A “Qualifying Offer” shall mean an offer of a Standard Player Contract to a Qualified Player.
Are players reimbursed for pre-season and end of season travel expenses?
Yes, for pre-season travel, the team will provide the player with either a one-way or round-trip airline ticket(s) from the Player’s home to the team’s Home Territory. If the Player drives, reimbursement for the actual cost of transportation of the Player, Spouse, and his children as evidenced by written receipts, must be submitted by the Player to the Club within seven (7) days after reporting to the team. Full payment of all expenses shall be made to the Player within seven (7) days of the Player’s arrival at the Home Territory and the furnishing of receipts.
For end of season travel, the Club shall provide travel to the Player’s home, provided that the Player is on the Active Roster or Injured Reserve at the End of the Season or is Released and not claimed off of waivers. The Player may request an advance equal to his travel cost incurred to arrive in the Home Territory. If during the season, the Player arrived from other than his home and is driving to his home, the team shall complete a Travel Home Advance Form and deliver it to the Player with the advance. If the actual cost is more than the advance, the Player shall be reimbursed for the additional necessary expense to travel to his home upon delivery to the Club of proper receipts documenting all such necessary expenses.
The team shall pay reasonable travel expenses within seven (7) days of the team’s receipt of the Player’s claim. When a Player is traveling via airline, in addition to the Player’s one (1) equipment bag not to exceed fifty (50) pounds (or 2 equipment bags in the case of goaltenders), the Player, Spouse, and his children shall each be entitled to two (2) checked bags containing personal items, not to exceed fifty (50) pounds per bag, or the maximum weight per bag permitted by the airline. Any other baggage must be sent via commercial ground transportation and pre-approved by the team, including pets.
Does a Player receive Off-Ice Insurance?
During the season, each Player on an Active Roster or Injured Reserve shall be eligible to receive off-ice health insurance coverage. Any player’s liability for any off-ice insurance coverage shall immediately cease on the day a Player is called up by an NHL or AHL team, and any such off-ice insurance shall immediately resume upon the Player’s reassignment to his ECHL team by the NHL or AHL team.
Is dental care provided to Players?
Teams shall provide at least one dental check-up per year for each Player, Spouse, and all Children, subject to a $25 co-pay for each person.
What is the dispute resolution process?
Any dispute, controversy, claim, or disagreement arising out of or relating to the CBA, shall be submitted to final and binding arbitration and will follow the procedure outlined below.
A grievance must be initiated by the League or the PHPA within ninety (90) days from the date of the event, or within 90 days from the date on which the facts of the matter became known. The party served with the grievance will answer in writing within twenty-one (21) days of receipt. Unless otherwise resolved, all matters will be submitted by the Commissioner and the Executive Director within 21 days of receipt of any answer. Selection of a neutral arbitrator shall be from a panel designated in a side letter agreement between the parties. The arbitrator shall have the authority to determine the procedural rules of arbitration and to make such binding orders to act effectively. The record shall be closed at the end of the hearing unless the arbitrator orders to the contrary. The arbitrator will issue a written decision no later than thirty (30) days of the close of the record.
Is a Player entitled to his own medical records?
Within fourteen (14) days of a Club’s last game, the Club shall provide each Player with a complete copy of his medical records at the time of his annual exit physical. The exit physical shall document all injuries that may require future medical or dental treatment either in the near future or post career. The Club shall remain responsible for the payment of medical and dental costs associated with treatment of such hockey-related injuries at a future date.
Is a Membership Assistance Program available to ECHL Players?
A drug, alcohol, financial, and stress counseling program has been established by the League and the PHPA. Each team shall donate one (1) game worn Captain’s jersey, which will be auctioned, to help fund the program.
Are ECHL Players allowed to play in the AHL or NHL?
In the event the League and team receive an executed contract/try-out agreement from an AHL/NHL team, the Player shall be allowed to report to that League.
If the team or the Player receives a try-out offer from an NHL/AHL team with no affiliation with the ECHL team, the Player shall not accept the try-out offer until the ECHL team has received a $500 development fee from the non-affiliated NHL/AHL team for each call-up.
Will a Strike of Lockout occur during the term of this CBA?
There shall at no time during the term of this Agreement be any strikes, walkouts, or the use of any method of lockout.
How many games do teams play under an ECHL Schedule?
The regular season shall not exceed seventy-two (72) games.
How long is the All-Star Break? What do the Players receive for participating?
There shall be no travel, practices, regular season games, player appearances or promotions during the three (3) day All-Star Event Break. When a team returns from an away game or completes a home game just prior to the break period, at least seventy-two (72) hours shall pass before having to travel to or practice for a Regular Season game.
In addition, the League shall guarantee that each Player who participates in the All-Star Game receives a flat payment of Three Hundred Dollars ($300) from the host team. The League shall also guarantee that transportation, accommodations, and meals shall be provided by the host team for each Player who participates in the ECHL All-Star Game.
What does the Regular Season Champion receive?
The Regular Season Champions shall receive the following for distribution amongst players who finish the regular season on the Active Roster:
  1. 2013/14- $4,150 US
  2. 2014/15- $4,200 US
  3. 2015/16- $4,250 US
  4. 2016/17- $4,300 US
  5. 2017/18- $4,350 US
Furthermore, Players on the Active Roster who finish first in their conference in the Playoffs shall receive:
  1. 2013/14- $2,100 US
  2. 2014/15- $2,200 US
  3. 2015/16- $2,300 US
  4. 2016/17- $2,300 US
  5. 2017/18- $2,300 US
How much Bereavement/Family Leave do players receive?
In the event of a death of an immediate family member of a Player, the Player shall be entitled to four (4) days leave with pay. Furthermore, the team shall furnish the Player and Spouse with a round-trip ticket from the playing city to the location of the funeral.
A Player may also request Family Leave for the birth of a child, a family emergency or illness, and the Player shall get four (4) days leave with pay.
Is equipment provided to ECHL Players?
It is the responsibility of the team to provide each Player with all equipment, including skates, necessary and appropriate for professional hockey. Equipment must be fit for its intended use at a professional level and provide for the safety and well being of each Player.
Notwithstanding the above, Players who have been on an Active Roster or Injured Reserve for sixty (60) or more days during the Season, with the majority of time being spent on the Active Roster, who have not yet received a pair of skates, are entitled to at least one pair of skates provided by the team.
Is a Career Enhancement Program available to ECHL Players?
Each year, the League shall contribute $750 per team to further the PHPA Career Enhancement Program. This contribution will be used solely for the purpose of educating Players.
What type of commitment do ECHL Players make to Promotional Activities?
Promotional activities including, but not limited to, personal appearances shall be an obligation of each Player to the team. The Players agree and recognize that certain non-compensated appearances shall be undertaken on behalf of charities and other non-profit organizations as directed by the team.

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