NHl Lockout Still On Ice
By Dallas RobinsonPosted Nov 6, 2012
The NHL and the NHL Player’s Association met on Saturday for the first time in two weeks, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. The two sides presumably discussed ending the current lockout, which began on Sept. 16 after the league’s collective bargaining agreement expired.
The talks may have been sparked by Friday’s cancellation of one of the league’s premier events, the Winter Classic, an outdoor game which was to be played at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium. The contest, which was to feature the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, usually draws extraordinary ratings and is a flagship event that attracts fans who might not normally watch hockey.
The lockout is due to several components, but the most important is simple dollars and cents. The expired CBA called for the players to collect 57% of the league’s revenue, which was in excess of $3 billion last year. The NHL’s first proposal called for the player share to be reduced to 46%. On Oct.16, league commissioner Gary Bettman offered a 50/50 split between the owners and players. The NHLPA responded with three separate counteroffers, each of which was rejected by the league.
Contract specifics were another issue raised by league owners. The league wishes to limit the maximum length of a contract to five years, eliminating the possibility of a Shea Weber (14 years, $110 million) or Sidney Crosby (12 years, $104.4 million) type deal. Additionally, the owners want to make salaries uniform throughout the length of contract, thereby eliminating “frontloaded” pacts.
ESPN also reports that, as of Thursday, there were no plans to bring in a mediator to arbitrate discussions between the two sides, a common technique used in labor negotiations. “No news here,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “So far, I think we all have been in agreement that we didn’t think that the introduction of a mediator into the process was timely or that it would necessarily further the process. That may change at some point, but it hasn’t yet.”
NHL players aren’t waiting on around, however. More than 140 players have signed contracts to play in Europe, and all players eligible for the American Hockey League have been assigned to their respective rosters.
Any optimism that may exist for a saved season may be suppressed simply due to the leaders of the two involved parties, neither of whom seem adverse to extended lockouts. Bettman has already led the NHL through two such ordeals. The 94-95 season was shortened, and the 04-05 was wiped out in full. NHLPA head Donald Fehr presided over MLB’s Player Association during the 1994 strike.
Locally, Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace recently argued that perhaps the lockout is a good thing for the Blue Jackets’ prospects. The hiring of former St. Louis Blues executive John Davisdon as president of hockey operations, Arace said, is the best possible transaction to come out of the lockout. A canceled season, he postured, would be in the best interests of Blue Jackets fans, as it would allow the team a whole year to assess themselves.
Arace’s opinion might be semi-popular here in Columbus, but most hockey fans will disagree. The next few weeks will be critical if the NHL hopes to save any part of their season.