I think most people would agree that the owners got the better of the players in 04-05 in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) agreement. Not many people, if any could argue that. Getting the players to agree to a hard salary cap was viewed as a major win for the owners who were crying poor, like they always do.

Now, lets fast forward 7 years to 2012 and the “new” NHL has come to another stand still because, you guessed it, the owners are once again crying poor. Their main complaint? Rising player costs. Let’s not forget they are the ones who ultimately approve these player costs but that’s another story all together.

In July, the owners submitted their demands. Up until this point, I was fairly optimistic that a deal would get done and the season would start on time but when I read what the owners wanted, I did a complete 180. I’m not sure I’ve seen something this absurd, EVER. Ten years until players can become Unrestricted Free Agents? Five year max term on contracts? An HRR of 43.3%? None of these things would be accepted by the NHLPA, meaning this is going to be a long and bitter battle, just like in 2004-05.

To think the players are going to accept anything under a 50-50 split of revenues is a pipe dream. It’s almost as likely as the Owners agreeing to keep a 57-43 split that’s in the current CBA. I understand the owners want a little more then 43% of the pie, but lets be realistic, there’s no way they will get 57% of it, not a chance.

Bettman and Fehr are referring to the split in revenue as a “SubstancialGulf”, which is accurate but the only reason there is such a gap is because the Owners low balled the players. Now, you can say “it’s the first agreement, you always lowball the opposition in order to have some wiggle room for negotiating”. That’s all fine and good until Bettman comes out and says the proposal from the players was “disappointing”. Really? The players offered to take a SMALLER piece of the pie, showing they are willing to make some concessions in order to get a deal made and Bettman is standing there criticizing? That’s where I began to think that the Owners are willing to lock the players out every 5-8 years in order to get them to make more concessions.

A lockout hurts 2 of the 3 parties involved in the NHL, the Players who miss pay checks, and the fans who are the paying customers. The Owners all have other jobs or investments that are making them millions of dollars, so they don’t really need to play a season. Let’s be serious, not playing a season helps most teams because most teams lose money every season and when you’re not paying your player salaries, you’re expenses are slashed way down.

Just like in 2004, the players are going to have to make more concessions then the owners are, it’s just a fact of life in today’s NHL. Without a viable league that can compete with the NHL (withinNorth America) the players are going to have little leverage in negotiations. They are going to have to agree to a lower share of revenue, probably around the 50/50 area and they are going to have to agree to limits on contract term. The reality is, owners can go a lot longer then the players can without playing hockey and this is why the owners have MUCH more leverage then the players.

With the CBA set to expire on September 15th and there being a “substantial gulf” between the two sides, the threat of a lockout seems to be increasing by the day. This will be the 3rd lockout under Gary Bettman as commissioner which begs the question, is he the right man to be running the NHL? Since the last lockout, the NHL hasn’t been more popular. I’m afraid the owners are going to look at that and say to themselves “If it worked last time and we came back stronger, why not try it again?” A lockout this year could be detrimental to the NHL, mainly in theUS. We all know that inCanada, fans will come flocking back to watch.

So, would you come back to watch the NHL if theres another lost season? Why or why not?

Follow me on twitter @Jessturr and let me know what you think.


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