Well, the moment we've all been dreading has come to fruition. The NHL has officially entered its third work stoppage since 1994, and when you count the stoppage for the players' strike in 1992, it makes four in 20 years. The league has locked out its players and there doesn't seem to be much hope that a deal will be finalized in the near future.
Teams haven't canceled training camps, but that's imminent, as they were set to begin Sept. 21. The next step would be knocking out the preseason, which was due to start Sept. 23. And the real dagger comes when regular season games are erased; the season is supposed to start Oct. 11. For now, there remains limited hope that a deal could get done before that date -- after all, teams don't necessarily need six games to get ready for the for the "real thing."
Sure, the hope is there that the season won't be lost, but the reality is it seems like a certainty at this point because the league's owners and its players remain far apart in negotiations. They didn't even speak on deadline day, that's how much of an impasse remains. What's the big sticking point? While the collective bargaining agreement is very convoluded, the biggest hurdle remains as to how the two sides will split hockey-related revenue. The NHL made a record $3.3 billion last year.
The last lockout was solved when the players agreed to a salary cap and 24 percent rollback of existing contracts in exchange for 57 percent of that revenue. Now, though, commissioner Gary Bettman says that owners think the percentage the plaeyrs receive is too high, while the NHLPA has no intentions to make further concessions. To understand these negotiations, see that the NHL first proposed a 14-percent cut to the players. That has increased increased to 46 percent now, though. Still, it's a significant cut and the players still aren't biting, and they want at least $1.8 billion in salaries paid out in the 2011-12 season annually. The players have proposed a deal in which they'd receive about 52 percent of the revenue.
So how long could this work stoppage last? Agent Scott Norton suggested the lockout could last for a year and half. That doesn't seem very likely because the league nor its players would want to further damage the game in that regard. Some believe the earliest time the season could begin is Thanksgiving and some believe it could be the Winter Classic on New Year's.
The first sign that something could be cooking will be when the NHL Players' Association and NHL owners convene to have some serious discussions, and not just go through the motions of a meeting without either side willing to be creative or make some concessions. When it comes down to it, though, it's a cruel situation for the players. They are the product. They are, in essence, what makes the owners and the league money. But the owners pay their checks and it's more than likely that the players will have to bend, despite a strong and unified union with Donald Fehr at the helm, in order to get the 2012-13 season underway.