Stormclouds on the Horizon
While we fans generally look at hockey as a game, sometimes events happen which remind us that the NHL is a business first. While it is too early to say anything for certain about what will happen next year, there is the very real possibility we may see games lost due to confrontations between the players and the owners.
After the 2004 lockout during which the owners shut down the NHL for a year to get the terms they wanted from the players' union, it was hoped that the changes they had pushed for would lead to greater stability and profitability in the league. The biggest change was the introduction of the salary cap to the NHL, with both a top level and a floor to which all teams must spend.
Now, less than a decade later, the owners are again seeking to revise the deal in their favor by seeking further concessions from the players. Specifically, they asked the players to accept their salaries being drawn from 46% of the hockey related revenue instead of the current 57% from which they receive their salaries. Also worth noting is the NHL has defined what constitutes said revenue so that the pool is even smaller.
With record NHL revenues and a new television contract with NBC here in the States as well as lucrative contracts with both the CBC and TSN in Canada, players are not the only ones asking why they are being asked to shoulder so much of the cuts. With the owners seeking to limit contract length, increase the period until players reach free agency by three years, and other concessions being asked for, one of two things seems likely.
Either the owners just came out with a set of their ideal wishes, or this long summer may not end when it comes to hockey being played.
For the moment, we'll wait and see what Don Fehr, the leader of the NHL Players' Association, has to say with his forthcoming counter-offer.