Light at the End of the Tunnel? NHL Lockout


So what is the latest? Well, more talks, some minor progress, but same result. More cancelled games, more players in Europe, and no hockey in Canada. However, as much as I feel like I’m beating a dead horse by writing this, I do think there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

After the last failed attempt by both sides to come to an agreement on who’s getting what percent of the hockey generated revenue, both sides did agree to get together to hammer out the other minor issues that are involved in negotiating the new CBA. Now this isn’t anything major, because neither side is willing to budge on the revenue numbers, but it does mean that the two sides are working together and there that there is some progress being made. And the other bright spot is that they are way ahead of where they were back in 2004. That being said, the NHL did still pull the trigger on cancelling the first chunk of regular season games. We knew it was inevitable, but it still hurts hearing the news, and even more so, watching our beloved stars hit the ice in Europe. The silver lining in all of this is that they only cancelled 82 total games that were set to be played, which is approximately a month of hockey. It is a ton of revenue lost for both sides (The owners around 100 million, and the players around 150 million), but it could have been worse. The NHL easily could have cancelled half of the season instead of breaking it into small chunks, which gives both sides a chance to come to their senses and work things out before they both lose another 100 million or so.

The other “fail-safe” here is the part of the season that includes the Winter Classic, and the All-Star game. Both are huge revenue generating events, and both thrive on annual growth. Cancelling these events would be devastating to both sides. And it’s also about that time in the year where any chance of a condensed or shifted season goes out the window. The NHL is willing to play hockey well into June if necessary, but not into July as by that time it starts affecting next years season. So look for a deal to be in place around then, that would see a season similar to the ’94-’95 season.

The two sides did have a surprise meeting in Toronto yesterday and there was some positive things reported by Pierre Lebrun who felt that both sides are moving towards new offers and more compromise in this stalemate.  It should come as no surprise that the new meeting comes on the heels of a meeting between the NHL and their top sponsors and advertisers, so there may have been some added motivation coming out of those talks.

So whose side are you on? The owners? Or the players?

The players…

The players don’t want to give up the percentage of the revenue they fairly negotiated during the last CBA. And they feel like they were the ones that caved last time in agreeing to things like a salary cap. They are also trying to appeal to the fans by saying that they would be happy to continue to play hockey while they negotiate. But that is mainly due to the fact that they have the most to lose by not playing. The owners will win the waiting game 100 times out of 100. The players also believe that they deserve a higher percentage, because they are the ones putting their bodies on the line to showcase their talents. They are the ones that train and play hard all year-long, and they are the ones that the people come to see.

The owners…

The owners don’t want a lockout anymore than anyone else, especially the big 3 (Toronto, New York, and Montreal) who are losing megabucks during these proceedings. Even the next tier of top earners (Detroit, Boston, Philly, and Chicago) are all losing big money. But after that, it drops off, and then it drops off again, and then it drops off again. Where the top middle teams are barely profiting, the bottom middle teams are just treading water, and the basement teams are sinking. And it’s those basement teams that are the ones screaming: “Why am I paying my employees 57% of our revenue? I’m taking all of the risk!” Which does make sense, as there is no company in the world that would give their employees that kind of percentage. The owners are talking all of the risk, while the players salaries are protected by their contracts.

Me, I’m on nobody’s side, and wholeheartedly against both sides. I keep hearing people say how disgusted they are that were watching millionaires argue with billionaires. But quite frankly, that doesn’t bother me. That’s business. It happens everyday all around the world. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you have to fight to get it, and fight to protect it. And there is always someone waiting to take it from you if you don’t. My problem is, whose money they are fighting over… mine!

I go to home games, I go to road games, I buy jerseys and merchandise, I order TSN 2, and Leafs TV, and Centre Ice. I’m one of the guys supporting this league, and I’m also part of the problem. After the last lockout people we were all pissed, but we still flocked back to the game, and we did it in record numbers. Since the last lockout the NHL has seen a 50% increase in revenues. Meaning not only did we forget about the year of no hockey, but we couldn’t wait to invest our hard-earned paycheques into the new product. And that is basically what they are fighting over now. Both sides want as big a piece of that inflated pie that they can get. So why wouldn’t they cancel part or all of the season to ensure a better percentage for themselves in the future? As soon as hockey resumes, whenever it resumes, we are going to be right there chomping at the bit, ready to empty our pockets for the game we love.

… And that is the last word.

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