NHL Lockout Episode III: Revenge of the Bettman
It's official. We're now twelve hours into Day 1 of the NHL's third lockout (ahem, "work stoppage") of the past twenty years, its first since the 2004 lockout that wiped out an entire season of play. To call this development predictable would be as gross an understatement as "Ryan Getzlaf's hairline is receding." It's clear the owners have been intent on locking out the players until their CBA demands are met for quite some time now and the reportedly unanimous vote that approved the maneuver only cements that.
By now, everyone is aware of the central dispute here: the players, led by Donald Fehr, are looking to retain the 57% of hockey-related revenue they earned over the course of the just-expired CBA, citing the league's 50% increase in revenue since 2005 as evidence of that system working for both parties. The owners, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, want players to settle for less than half of HRR, claiming that's the best route to fixing the financial problems that afflict many of the league's franchises.
The scary thing is the two sides are far apart on just the economics of the agreement. There has yet to even be a serious discussion about contract length, arbitration rights, free agency age and several other points of contention. Granted, the assumption seems to be that the rest will follow should they settle on the division of revenue but that combined with the fact that the NHL has already indicated their last proposal has now been taken off the table while Fehr and the PA have implied they wouldn't be averse to expanding their demands to an abolition of the salary cap should the owners press the big red lockout button, there's reason to believe this won't be over in a hurry.
The closest thing to leverage the players have is the Winter Classic. The owners might think twice before flushing what's been a ratings bonanza and signature event for the league since its inception and come to an agreement before January 1st. Crazier things have happened (such as the NHL continuing to have a dedicated fanbase despite throwing a season in the trash every few years) but I'd be surprised if we get to see Joe Pavelski resume his role as Captain America, Dan Boyle quarterback a power play or Patrick Marleau awkward his way through an intermission interview before New Year's Day.
Until then, we'll have plenty of content here at Fear The Fin. Go Giants?