The NHL is amid its fourth work stoppage in 20 years after the league’s collective bargaining agreement with players expired at 11:59 pm ET on Saturday night.
This time, like 2004 when the entire season was lost, the NHL locked out its players.
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association boss Donald Fehr last brought their two sides together for face-to-face meetings on Wednesday.
While training camps weren’t set to open until September 21, and the season wasn’t to begin until October, there’s still plenty of work ahead.
The two sides are millions apart on a new CBA.
“I think we have to believe there is time to get a deal reached,” Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller told USA Today. “Our goal all along has been to work out some kind of partnership.”
At issue are money and the value of the league, which scrubbed the entire 2004-05 season due to contract negotiations.
It was then players agreed to a salary cap and 24 percent wage rollback in exchange for 57 percent of league revenue.
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Now, the NHL says that system is unworkable and the league wants players to accept less than 50 percent of revenues, TSN reported.
Players countered with an offer that would guarantee them $1.8 billion worth of salaries, or what team owners paid out last season.
The union is digging in because NHL revenue increased to $3.3 billion from $2.1 billion since the new deal in 2005.
What is causing some confusion is a flurry of contract signings this weekend.
As an example, the Boston Bruins signed Milan Lucic to an $18-million, three-year extension and the Phoenix Coyotes inked Shane Doan for another $21.2 million.
Both deals come under the old, so-called unworkable contract the NHL is trying to avoid.
To make matters even more interesting, Phoenix – long searching for new ownership – is under NHL control.
Fan reaction to the lockout ranges from frustration to apathy.
“Lock out the players, lock out the fans,” a handful of fans shouted outside the NHL offices in New York on the weekend.
Fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba rejoiced at the beginning of last season when the Atlanta Thrashers packed up and moved north because of failing revenues.
Now, Canada’s heartland is hoping for a quick resolution to this problem.
Jets’ fan John Sawicz said the owners are coming off as greedy.
“It sounds more like the players are trying to bend and the ownership is trying to hold a pretty tough line and making sure the owners are getting a bigger share of the pot,” he told the Winnipeg Sun. “Sometimes, you wonder, ‘How much do they need?’”
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