On Thursday, the National Hockey League and the National League Players Association will start to feel the real loses as the National Hockey League cancelled the first two weeks of regular season games. It appears that these will not be the only meaningful games that will be cancelled this season.
During a statement on Thursday Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly expressed his deepest sorrow for the game of hockey. “The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our fans.”
This scenario is an all too familiar tune for the National Hockey League, for a sport that is going through its fourth labor dispute in league history. It seems the NHL is doomed to repeat an all too familiar cycle of labor unrest that they may not be able to break free from. The league lost 468 games during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season and all 1,320 regular-season games that were scheduled in 2004-05, which was wiped out in its entirety by another work stoppage.
Donald Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, again has criticized the owners for enacting the lockout last month. Fehr has insisted the players are willing to play under the current CBA, while a new one is negotiated. He does not understand why the owners do not want to do the same thing.
“If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue,” said Fehr. “A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions.”
The last lockout was to rectify many of the issues between the players and owners. The game improved, TV exposure was up, the game was gaining some popularity, and revenues reached a record high for the 2011-12 seasons. Yet, it appears there is dissatisfaction among the owners. There is a disagreement on how to split a $3.3 Billion dollar pie. The owners are asking players to roll back their salaries and reduce the percentage share of revenues.
With no scheduled talks in sight, all the optimism that there would be a season has turned to doom and gloom. The National Hockey League cancelled the entire preseason season schedule and Bill Daly said, “The league lost in revenue almost a $100 million dollars and that is something we will never get back.” This is lost money for the owners and they will not ever see this money this season if a lockout goes for a while.
As players start to lose pay cheques and owners start to lose revenue from the prospect of empty buildings, missed gates and, in some cases, refunds to ticket-holders, many people hope this will be the straw that will break the camel’s back and get these parties back to the negotiating table.
As the industry braces for another long work stoppage, players have scattered around the globe. More than 100 players have already found jobs in Europe. That is roughly 15 percent of the union’s total membership, and that number is expected to climb now that meaningful games are gone. Other players have found jobs in Russia, playing the KHL.
Meanwhile, the fans suffer. The owner’s arrogance seems to be that the fans will return once there is a resolution. Let’s hope the demise of the league is not eminent should a whole season be lost to the lack of compromise and negotiations between rich owners and well-paid players.
The two sides have been in constant communication throughout the lockout, which is change from 2004-05, when there no was communication for three months. Neither side wants to repeat mistake made in the past, but if a new collective bargaining agreement is not put in place another season could lost.
One thing is certain; hockey fans want their favorite sport to come back onto the ice and do not want their league to fold because of money. Fans are tired of the rhetoric from both parties and just want them to negotiate and end the lockout.