Will Collective-Bargaining Negotiations Cause NHL Lockout?
By Stephen London
The relationship between the NHL and its players' association has been one of the most dysfunctional relationships between a league and its athletes in recent sports history. As a result of the lockout during the 2004-05 season, the NHL lost its television contract with ESPN and primetime contract for one game per week on ABC. Since then, the NHL has regained viewership, revenue and attendance.
Going into the offseason, it was reported that both sides working on the new collective bargaining agreement were seeking an appropriate deal. The NHL and the board of governors offered the first proposal for a new CBA right before talks began between the players' association and the league. As other media outlets have reported, the proposed CBA cuts 11 percent of players' revenue. The most recent CBA states that the players will receive 57 percent of the revenue, but the proposed CBA is calling for 46 percent of hockey-related revenue to be allocated to the players.
Another aspect of the proposed CBA that has angered some players is that contract length would not be longer than five years. In addition, the player would be paid the same amount each year, making it impossible to front-load or back-load contracts. The proposed CBA would not allow any salary arbitration or any signing bonuses a player might receive for signing a contract with a team.
The owners of the NHL have been waiting since the last lockout to change some of their mistakes. Teams such as the Phoenix Coyotes cannot continue running at a deficit every season. The CBA that has been in place gave the NHL players' association the highest percentage of revenues of pro sports leagues. Given that the NHL fan base isn't as large as the NFL's or NBA's, it would be difficult for players to continue receiving 57 percent of hockey-related revenues.
The NHL and NHLPA have had meetings since the end of the season, with nothing much stemming from the talks. The proposed CBA serves as a rough draft at the negotiation table. If the NHL actually will not budge on any of the issues and no progress comes from the next couple of talks, then the league's actions may delay or cancel the 2012-13 season.
Posted July 16, 2012