The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League and its Players’ Association expired at midnight on Saturday, September 15. A new contract was not agreed upon by the deadline, plunging the league into its second lockout in eight years. The two parties met last on Thursday, September 13, and when negotiations failed, NHL team owners voted unanimously for commissioner Gary Bettman to impose a lockout starting at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday.
The expired CBA called for players to receive 57 percent of all HRR (hockey-related revenue). The league is no longer willing to support the players receiving that percentage, and, according to ESPN commissioner Bettman said he and the owners “believe 57 percent of HRR is too much.” The most recent proposal by the NHL called for a reduced cut for the players over a six-year span, starting at 49 percent and phasing down to 47 percent. The NHL players’ association responded by proposing a five-year plan starting at 54.3 percent and dropping down to 52.3 percent.
Both proposals were declined by the opposing parties, sending the league into its third lockout under commissioner Bettman. The last lockout occurred in 2004-05 over a salary cap dispute, effectively causing the league to lose its entire season. According to ESPN Bettman stated, “even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary wages than what [the owners are] proposing to do.” Donal Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, countered by saying that the NHL’s decision for a lockout is a “choice,” not a necessity, and James Reiner, goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs, referred to the lockout as a “tactic,” causing fans and players to lose the game they love.
Both the NHL and the NHLPA have released messages online reaching out to fans and discussing bargaining points, but as of Monday, September 17, there have been no official announcements of any upcoming meetings between the two groups. The 2012-13 season was initially scheduled to begin on October 11, but if an agreement is not reached soon the entire season could be in jeopardy. It remains unknown how long the lockout can potentially last, but for now, it seems the goal is to reach an agreement by midseason at the latest. The Winter Classic is scheduled for January 1, 2013, between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. According to The New York Times, this event “has become the N.H.L.’s biggest regular-season event,” and with it, the NHL carries “important obligations to NBC, HBO and various corporate sponsors.”
In the meantime, many NHL players are making the move into European leagues, including the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League. The KHL has reportedly restricted its teams to signing no more than three players from the lockout-out NHL, and each player is to be paid no more that 65 percent of what they would be making otherwise. Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sergei Gonchar of the Ottawa Senators both made the switch to the KHL, beginning what is expected to be an “exodus” to European leagues if the NHL lockout drags on.