April 25, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of TD Garden before the start of game seven of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

OK NHL, now what?

So how long are the players and the league going to hold out this year?  How many lost paychecks for the players will it take? How many owners in the struggling markets will break unity with the board of governors and demand change?  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has vowed to lock out players for the second time in eight years if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached by the time the current one expires at midnight Saturday.  If this occurs, the NHL will have its fourth work stoppage since 1992.

While this lockout might not wipe out the whole season the way one did in 2004-05 lockout, games will be lost without productive talks soon.  They’ll have to cancel the pre-season games as early as next week. Conversations Thursday night and Friday between both sides have yet to spur the parties to return to the negotiation table. Well, lets take one more look at the ghosts of lockouts past.

Players absorbed a salary-cap system and took an immediate twenty-four percent rollback of existing contracts in 2005.  The players in return received a fifty-seven percent of hockey-related revenues. The NHL now says that figure is too high.  The league is now prepared to have another shutdown if the players do not accept a further reduction in hockey realted-revenue.(Between forty-seven and forty-nine percent depending on the version of the proposals offered.)

The most recent proposal from the league, a six-year term,  was in response to the union’s offer on Wednesday.  The players most recent proposal was rejected as being similar to the players’ two previous offers.

The NHLPA on the other hand, offered up a few new ideas. Rather than seeking a set percentage as the owners want,  the union is seeking a deal that would guarantee players at least the $1.8 billion paid out last season.  The player’s association also offered up an idea that would put surrendered monies into a fund that would assist the struggling teams in order to build a more financially stable league overall.

Bettman said the league’s latest offer would be pulled off the table once CBA expired. Why? Bettman claims that immediate damage caused by a lockout would force the NHL to reassess what it could offer. In the previous lockout, both sides dug in over the salary cap.  We lost the entire 2004-05 season because of it. The NHL would not consent to any deal without a cap being put in place.  The players sacrificed a full season before giving in to a salary cap system for hockey.

If you watched the last NHL and NHLPA press conference, it’s pretty clear. Both sides are digging in. As a student of medieval military history, one of the worst scenarios back then was the siege. Siege warfare contained too many variables to be successful, and often casualties in siege campaigns were horrendous. While, I do not see Sidney Crosby, Zdeno Chara, or Taylor Hall storming the ramparts, these kind of battles will only incur harm and casualties on the innocent party here, the fans.


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