NHL has entered its fourth work stoppage since 1992 and this one might be the
most discouraging of them all. While the last lockout seemed like a necessary
evil as the economics of the professional sport were out of whack, this one is
all about greed.
Back in 2004, the league generated revenues of $2.2
billion. Last season, the league appeared to be in much better shape as
revenues came in at $3.3 billion. Even so, the owners and players can’t figure
out a way to divvy up the pie and, as of midnight on Saturday, we are mired in
another labor dispute.
What’s the beef?
As usual, the problem is money. If the league were to
continue as is, the players would continue to receive 57% of the overall gross
revenue while the NHL would get 43%. The problem is that the owners have watched
other sports like the NFL and NBA force the players to take less – whether by
necessity or by choice – and the NHL owners feel they need to do the same.
Although it’s not a perfect comparison, one might point
to the NFL and say that their latest CBA saw the players receiver a 47% share
of the revenue split. So maybe the NHL players are asking for too much?
In the NBA, players get used to get 57% of Basketball
Related Income (2005 CBA) but now they are trimmed down to 51.15% (2011 CBA).
People will have their own perspective on this matter.
Some will view the owners as being greedy, but at the same time, NHL players are
getting a higher percentage than players in the NBA and NFL – even if that’s
not a perfect comparison.
How serious are the owners?
During the last lockout, some of the owners were going to
lose money even if the league played its games, so it made sense for them to
hold out for a new agreement. This time around, it seems like most of the teams
are making money – not losing it – so do they really want to risk profits by
canceling regular season games?
Logic says no, but a lot of people were surprised to hear
that the each and every owner voted to proceed with the lockout unless a better
deal is reached. Late last week, Gary Bettman announced that the owners voted
unanimously for it.
The owners say that even a small lockout will result in
player salary losses greater than what the owners are proposing, so they think
the players should just go for it. They want the players to have a smaller
share of the revenue – the only question is how much are they willing to
sacrifice to get it?
How serious are the players?
When a couple has a big argument and then returns to a
similar situation in the future, two things can happen: either they can learn
from the past and find a more efficient way of dealing with the problem or
emotions from the previous rift will crop back up and cloud everyone’s judgment
It’s like when you fight with your girlfriend or wife:
she brings up your entire history and it makes it more difficult to deal with
the situation at hand.
Unfortunately, that’s how the players are acting in this
In the last lockout, the players were absolutely rolled
before financially and publicly. They lost money off salaries and they lost
public relations battle as well. This time around, they appear to be far more
united and they don’t look like they will fracture as easily. Almost 300
players showed up to the labor negotiations this week as a sign of solidarity.
How does this get solved?
It starts with communication, but the problem is neither
sides talking. It’s surprising that as we got closer to the deadline, both
parties felt that they were so far apart that it wasn’t even worth it to try to
negotiate in the 11th hour.
The owners are in the driver’s seat, as they usually are.
If they’re serious, this will be a long lockout because they’ll wait until the
players come back to the table and are willing to take less than 50% of the
gross revenue. If the owners are bluffing because the teams are in fact in
better financial shape than they are letting on, then this thing should last
into the regular season.
In the meantime,
enjoy being a fan and bettor. Both greedy sides are making you the loser in all