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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
NHL pension plan back on for 2013

By James Murphy
ESPNBoston.com

Boston Bruins Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt was thrilled Wednesday to hear the Senior Player Benefit plan for retired NHLers was renewed for 2013.

"I am very pleased," Schmidt told ESPNBoston.com via phone. "I have always been proud to be a part of the NHL and the players' association, and I am glad they're helping us and grateful for what we did. Thank you very much to both sides. This makes a world of difference to so many of us and means a lot."

As I wrote Tuesday, retired players 65 and over were in danger of losing monthly payments -- $1,380 for each season they played in the NHL -- they've received since 2004 through the Senior Benefit plan, to which the NHL and NHLPA each contribute $2 million. Without a new CBA, these payments would have stopped in January.

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Up until Tuesday, the NHLPA had not publicly committed to extending the program; the NHL had done so last week. But according to a source close to the situation, the NHLPA addressed the matter internally in an extensive discussion at dinner Tuesday night and agreed to renew. Therefore, the payments will continue in 2013, with or without a new CBA.

Another Bruins Hall of Famer, Gerry Cheevers, was also pleased to hear that he and his fellow NHL alumni over 65 would still benefit from this plan.

"Everyone in our position is elated to hear this news," Cheevers said. "As I said before, I think it was a matter of communication and once the players and all involved realized this was in danger, they'd do the right thing. This is a very generous gift and something many of us rely on. Now I just hope the two sides can also agree to get back on the ice."

Neither the NHL or the NHLPA returned emails to ESPNBoston.com but told the Toronto Star Wednesday they were more than happy to continue this plan for former players.

"This is a very important benefit that we jointly created to help benefit those players who helped get this game to unprecedented levels," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote the Star in an email. "Our board has always done the right thing when given the opportunity and it's the least we can collectively do to pay back those who have contributed so much to our game."

The players' association would need to take the issue to a vote among its members if there isn't a new CBA, but PR director Jonathan Weatherdon said it was a "done deal."

"It's something we're very proud of," Weatherdon told the Star.