Lockout Is Over? Really?

Jeremy Wiebe January 6, 2013 0
Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star

I’ll admit it. I was one of those pessimistic naysayers who truly believed there would be no season. I just looked at the history of the NHL and NHLPA. We all remember 2004-05 season that was wiped out due to a lockout. The owners wanted a salary cap. The players steadfastly refused. Thus the dispute lasted the entire year.

Fast forward to 2012-13. The salary cap is in place. But the owners wanted more money out of the revenue pie. At the end of the 2011-12 season, the players were receiving 57% of all hockey related revenues. The owners wanted to change that. The players reluctantly agreed, so they sat down to negotiate. However, the owners wanted drastic changes. They offered the players a complete reversal. 57% of HRR to the owners, 43% to the players. The NHLPA were horrified and the lockout had begun.

Look at the principles. Gary Bettman has been the commissioner of the NHL since 1992. This was his third lockout he presided over during that time. He was the one that cancelled the 2004-05 season. He was always looking for the perfect deal. His partner in crime, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was known as the biggest cheapskate in the NHL. It was no surprise that Jacobs was the head of the board of governors. His hardline stance and boorish behaviour was infuriating to players and fans.

Then there is Donald Fehr. The leader of the NHLPA was as stubborn and egotistical as Bettman. Before he came to the NHLPA, he was the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association for 24 years. His ongoing battles with baseball owners that dealt with collusion to the salary cap led to 3 work stoppages, eventually forcing the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. Fehr was seen as a tough negotiator, who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

What followed was one of the messiest work stoppages in the history of sports. HRR was agreed on, then make whole was an issue. When make whole was settled then contract lengths (or the hill the owners would die on) became an issue. When contract lengths were settles then pensions became the issue. When pensions were settled then second year salary cap was an issue and so on and so on and so on.

So yes, I was pessimistic about the process. Yes, I was negative about the situation. I feared for the future of the league. I did wonder when the players filed for a disclaimer of interest, how the NHL would look completely different. I wondered if anybody on the owners or players side truly cared about the sport. Fortunately I was wrong. And I’m happy to be wrong. Welcome back NHL. And Go Jets Go!

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