Is Another NHL Lockout on the Horizon?

While I love everything about hockey and the NHL, there is one thing that I despise about it and that is the business side of the game.

It is the business side of the game that has caused several strikes and lockouts. In my lifetime (I am 35 years old), I have witnessed the following:

– Strike in the spring of 1992 prior to the playoffs

– Strike-shortened season in 1994-95 after what was one of the best NHL seasons in 1993-94

– The cancellation of the 2004-05 season

– Strike-shortened season in 2012-13

Clearly, this is nothing new when it comes to the NHL. Unfortunately, it also means that there is always a chance that it could happen again.

Today, one of the issues in the next CBA came to the forefront in a negative way. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that when it comes to the Olympics, he believes that they are “terribly disruptive to the season.”

Gary was not done there, however. He also explained that participation in the Olympics proved to be “difficult and less than satisfactory”.

With the 2022 Olympics coming up in four years in Beijing, this was not a good thing to say. If you can remember, the players were extremely upset that they could not play in this year’s Winter Olympics.

Some of the players, including Washington Capitals’ franchise player and captain Alex Ovechkin, threatened that they would go play in them because it meant more to play for their country than it did to play in the NHL. I’m sure Ovechkin was at least a bit upset that he was not able to win the Gold Medal this season with his country back in February.

This is sure to be a hot button issue when it comes to the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA). The players have made it clear to NHLPA boss Donald Fehr that they were upset about not being able to participate in this year’s Olympics in South Korea and that they want that to change in 2022.

Unfortunately, I think the NHL and NHLPA could be in trouble when it comes to the next CBA. The current CBA expires in 2022, but both the owners and the NHLPA can terminate it in 2020. Furthermore, the league needs to decide by September 1 of next year if they want to reopen talks on a new CBA.

While all of this sounds like mumbo-jumbo, it is important for hockey fans. The last thing the sport needs is another work stoppage, which if history has taught us anything, is definitely a possibility when the current CBA expires.

In a piece by hockey scribe Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star back on September 21, he said that both the players and owners are already thinking about it. In the article, McGran mentioned that Bill Daly, Bettman’s right-hand man, said that he deals with the NHLPA all of the time and that communication is wide open.

While this is good to hear, McGran also said in the article that Bettman is happy with the way the current CBA is. That is not going to fly with the players.

Based on this article, both Fehr and the players feel that they sacrificed a lot in the last CBA and that they want to make sure that they do not do that again.

“It’s fair to say the last two lockouts, we made some concessions as players,” Devils winger Taylor Hall says. “We don’t want to do that again. I think we can all agree there are some things we’d love to get back.”

Clearly, the players have issues with the way things are now. As mentioned above, the Olympics will be a key talking point, as well as potential revenue generated from expansion clubs.

McGran wrote that this time around, the players want to make sure that they get paid every cent of their contract instead of having a percentage of their salary held back. In this piece, Chicago Blackhawks’ star and captain Jonathan Toews concurred.

“I don’t care how much money you make or who you work for, if you put the work in you’ve earned that contract,” says Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “Aside from what you’re paying (in taxes), which is the inevitable part of life, I think both sides should uphold what they’ve agreed to in the contract.”

While I am hoping for the best in this situation, I am nervous that this is going to end up in yet another work stoppage. Bettman has yet to show any difference in his tenure and remember, he canceled a WHOLE season in 2004-05.

Unfortunately, as someone who is a hockey fan and knows what it is like when the league and the NHLPA go through this kind of situation, I am preparing for the worst. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

*Photo: Sportsnet.ca

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