Well, we can’t say we were surprised. There was plenty of time, plenty of warning… plenty of stupidity to go around. The last lockout back in 2004 actually meant something. Franchises were losing money like a sieve. The divide between rich and poor was enormous. A salary cap was needed, and it took losing an entire season to convince the greedy players of that simple fact. Teams like the Penguins were circling the drain before the salary cap was put in place, and are flourishing now because of it.
This lockout, however, doesn’t have that same necessity to it. The league has grown by leaps and bounds since the last work stoppage, in part because of the success of the last CBA. This lockout is about greedy players AND greedy owners being, well, greedy.
While I don’t think the NHL is going to lose an entire season this time, there are important issues to iron out. In no way should the players be getting 57% of all hockey related revenue, nor should they be asked to take a pay cut down to 43% (The Revised NHL proposal has the number sit now at 49%). A 50/50 split, similar to the NFL, seems fair and reasonable.
On the NHL side, rich teams like the New York Rangers don’t want to help poor teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers (teams that have no business being located where they are located). This is why they are demanding more money from the players. It’s not the players responsibility to help fix the mistakes made by the league, but it’s in their best interest to do so.
In the end, the players have little real leverage here, even with the ability to go play overseas. Those leagues are not the NHL and don’t play for the ultimate prize in sport – the Stanley Cup. Now that the heat is on, I expect a deal to get done sooner rather than later.
One final note: Don’t blame Commissioner Gary Bettman for this. He works for the owners, not the other way around.