Greetings Caniacs! Well I was hoping to be writing an update on how smoothly the talks were going with the NHL owners and the NHLPA. As Lee Corso would say ”Not so fast my friend.” As the NHLPA presented their proposal on Tuesday, most in the hockey world (to include fans) felt comfortable with what the NHLPA had proposed. Twenty four hours later things do not seem so bright. With Commissioner Gary Bettman’s track record of labor negotiations (specifically the 1994-95 strike, shortened year and the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season) along with Donald Fehr’s baseball negotiation record, it is safe to say that is highly likely that there will be a lockout on September 15th. Yes, you read correctly, I feel it is likely that our beloved Carolina Hurricanes will be locked out due to a so called” broken economic system.”
The difference between now and 2004 is that a lockout led to the cancellation of the entire 2004 season, which was due to the owners claiming they were losing millions of dollars and needed concessions to keep their franchises from crumbling. Now they just want a bigger slice of the pie and are playing hardball with the NHLPA by asking for concessions that include reducing their share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent to 46. That’s despite the fact that NHL revenues reportedly reached an all-time high of $3.3 billion last season, up $1 billion since the last lockout.
Revenue sharing is just one of several major differences that the owners and the NHLPA are having. The two parties disagree on entry level contracts, Unrestricted Free Agency age requirements, maximum term of contract length, salary cap ceiling/floor and burying unwanted player contracts in the minors and Europe. As you can see there are a lot of issues to hash out. I will have to say that I am siding with the NHLPA on this one. In their proposal, the players said they would be willing to take a smaller percentage of revenues if it meant that the owners of richer teams would expand revenue-sharing to help those teams in need. They have diligently worked on a reasonable proposal and are willing to sacrifice millions of dollars to see that the season starts on time and a new CBA is agreed upon.
Where do we go from here? Well, a day after receiving a proposal from the NHL Players’ Association, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Toronto on Wednesday that “a wide gap” remains between the owners and players. Bettman has said the players will be locked out if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by Sept. 15, when the current one expires. Also, as of now there are no further negotiations scheduled until August 22nd. From a fans perspective, I would think with the current CBA about to expire both parties would be working day and night to achieve an agreement to prevent not only players from being locked out but help prepare the working people that support these NHL teams for the 2012-13 season.
Being an avid hockey fan I have struggled to write about such a negative situation but I can no longer ignore what has become a sudden reality. The grim reality is that the NHL, for the last 25 years, has been the most unstable of the American big four (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) in sports. I think as hockey fans we may need to realize that the question we need to ask ourselves is not” If the season will start on time?” but “When will the season start?”
That leads me to these questions. If and when there is a lockout, when do you think the season will start? If there is a lockout, what will you do to fill the gap of missing out on Hurricanes Hockey? Would the NHL ever resort to replacement players? If so, I would like Canes GM Jim Rutherford to call me….maybe? Feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me on twitter @Caniac_John