September 2, 2012
NHL fans are still sweating it out over the possibility of a lockout this season as it looks more and more likely with each passing day. The players and owners got together for negotiations in New York recently and after four days of debating; it looks like they’re definitely closer to a lockout than a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. In case you’re not aware, the current deal is set to expire on Sept. 15.
Just take a look at your calendar and you’ll realize how soon Sept. 15 is going to be upon us. However, there’s still some bargaining time since the 2012/13 season isn’t scheduled to face off until Oct. 11. If a deal can’t get done in time there’s always the possibility of a shortened season, much like last year’s NBA campaign. The major issues in the CBA talks are revenue sharing, contract lengths, and salaries.
The NHL made an offer during the recent talks and the NHL Players’ Union (NHLPA) took it home and studied it and then came back to the table shortly after with a counter proposal. The NHLPA got directly to the heart of the matter and they proposed their deal in approximately 90 minutes. The owners weren’t too impressed with the counter offer and the talks were broken off with everybody going their separate ways at the moment to enjoy the North American Labor Day holiday weekend.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who for some reason takes the brunt of the blame from hockey fans for the situation, said the week started out on a promising note, but in reality it went downhill from there and it wrapped up in disappointment. Bettman said the players had all summer to start negotiations and they left it quite late and they didn’t really out together a detailed proposal.
Donald Fehr is handling the negotiations for the NHLPA and so far, he and Bettman haven’t really agreed on anything. Bettman said he’s always available to talk though and all Fehr has to do is call him. The latest proposal by the players saw them wanting to keep their 57 per cent of hockey-related revenues for the first four years of any new CBA. This of course, is quite a big difference when compared to the 43 per cent that the owners are offering them.
Bettman said all of the issues are aimed at helping the league’s weaker teams become more stable. He added that when the NHL has a more solid foundation then there will be more money to share with the players. The NHLPA considered this and then agreed to take a reduction in revenues by seven percent, making it a 50-50 deal. However, they also want the league’s wealthier franchises to help out the weaker ones.
The owners then came back and offered to give the players another three per cent, which bumped up their offer to 46 per cent of revenues. Bettman said this would somehow turn into a 50-50 deal when all of the financial details were added up, but the players studied the finances of each team and said they were taking the 50-50 offer off the table and were going to stick with 57 per cent for the time being. The league also wants to talk about minor-league deals, off-ice costs, and salary rollbacks.
The length of the next CBA is also under debate with the NHLPA pushing for a shorter deal while the NHL wants a 10-year agreement in place. The last time the league had a labor dispute was back in the 2004/05 season and the entire season was lost. Another lockout in the span of eight years could prove to be very costly for the league, especially in the U.S. The league and players seem to take fans for granted in Canada and feel they’ll come flocking back to the arenas no matter what happens.
For some teams, like the inept Toronto Maple Leafs, a lockout could be a blessing in disguise though when it comes to player development. As usual, the Leafs don’t look to be anywhere near a playoff team for 2012/13 and if players were locked out they’d be able to develop some of their prospects down in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. These include goaltender Ben Scrivens, and forwards Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne, and Nazem Kadri. For Leaf fans, they need to look at the positive in every situation and this would be one of them if a lockout occurs.
If the players do get locked out, we may see some of them head overseas to play for European teams again, like they did during the last lockout. It’s already been reported that Pittsburgh Penguin Stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would consider playing in Russia in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). While things don’t look good at the moment, hockey addicts will likely watch anything that moves on skates, so it’s possible that the AHL could get more exposure in the event of a lockout with more games being televised.