I’m not going to sugar-coat anything. The 2012-2013 NHL season is in serious jeopardy. For the readers who don’t understand the terms of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), I’ll try to keep it simple.
The NHL’s current CBA is over on September 15. If there isn’t a new CBA agreed to by that deadline the players will be locked out by Commissioner Gary Bettman.
There are two sides to this story. On one side you have NHL owners and Commissioner Bettman. On the other you have the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players Association) which is lead by Donald Fehr.
There are two things that could happen if a lockout occurs. The first is that the NHLPA and the NHL can’t come to agreement at all. The result could potentially be a repeat of the 2004/2005 season, which was lost to a lockout. The second possibility is for something to happen like it did in the NBA this past season. In that situation there was no basketball for a few months, but after an agreement was reached, the NBA played a shortened season starting in December.
The NHL made 3.2 billion dollars in revenues last season. Shortly after this was announced the NHL told the NHLPA to change the CBA because certain teams were not making money, despite the 3.2 billion made last season. To explain, there are rich and poor teams across the league and the most revenue is, of course, coming from the richer teams.
Teams like Toronto, Montreal, New York, Boston, and Detroit are making big profits, while teams like Columbus, and Phoenix are not. To combat this in their first proposal the NHLPA wanted to make revenues sharing between clubs a reality. This would in effect force the richer teams to share their revenues with the poor teams. This argument has been used successfully in Major League Baseball, but the NHL owners are a tougher sell.
The lower revenue teams will love this idea but the richer teams will not. However if there is a lockout, the richer teams’ profit margins will be cut into. The owners of the rich NHL teams will lose business and therefore lose profit. NHL owners will not be happy to lose out on potential revenue since this is after all a business.
The money making owners will begin to lose profit if there is a lockout, because there are no games to be played. That means no paying fans, no sponsorships, and no televised games. Also don’t forget that they will have to return season ticket holders money as well and nobody likes returning money.
Not many people know that when Bettman got his job in 1993, he was required to avoid work stoppages. Now if you’re a rich owner not making any money because Bettman locked the players out, who do you think is going to hear it first? This could potentially be the NHLPA’s ace in the hole.
Hopefully the NHLPA can successfully submit a proposal that works for both the players association and for the NHL. I’d hate to see this season cancelled but as it stands right now it is a very real and scary possibility.