The NHL made a huge statement when they cancelled the first two weeks of the season—82 games in total— on Oct. 4, but negotiations between both sides have continued.
It should be noted that only the first two weeks of the schedule were cancelled, not the actual games. The NHL’s official statement was wordy and open-ended in hope that an agreement can be reach soon enough that the schedule can be redrawn in an efficient way.
The NHLPA’s statement on the matter was very direct, and Donald Fehr expressed his thoughts in this NHLPA press release.
“The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners,” Fehr said. “If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue. A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions.”
Fehr’s words seem to portray doom and gloom, but there is some hope. TSN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun tweeted the following message about negotiations.
“Told that NHL strongly urged NHLPA in meeting today to come up with new offer,” Fehr said. “In turn, NHLPA also asked league to come up with new offer. In short, both sides expressing to each other that it’s time to compromise”
With the NHLPA set to make another proposal, the ball will shift back into the NHL’s court. Up to this point, both sides have negotiated ancillary issues like insurance, travel costs and other non-essentials, but core economic issues have not been discussed in quite some time.
It is expected that both sides will finally get to talk hockey-related revenue and core economic issues after spending the past week once again discussing non-essential issues. These issues include insurance, hotel and travel arrangements and other small issues that need to be settled.
Given the fact that both sides have engaged in more negotiations during this work stoppage when compared to the 2004-05 lockouts, it is clear that both sides aren’t thrilled with the lockout. The NHL announced that they lost $100 million in revenue as a result of canceling the preseason. The NHLPA also isn’t thrilled that their players are overseas instead of playing regular season games.
Both sides don’t want the lockout to continue because both sides stand to lose tons of revenue, especially when they are already battling to divide up hockey-related revenue.
Another lengthy lockout could also severely damage an NHL that is still recovering from the 2004-05 strike. The league is coming off a season where the Los Angeles Kings— one of the U.S.’s top television markets, won their first Stanley Cup, which interjected a lot of interest for the NHL in California.
Interest in hockey in California had not been as intense as it was this past June since Wayne Gretzky was infamously traded to the Kings during the summer of 1988. A lockout ultimately kills that momentum because fans will tune in to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers instead.
The league is also concerned that teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers will continue to fall into the red zone. The NHL released revenue numbers that suggest that only a few teams—mostly the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings and assorted others are benefiting from the current system, so that is why a change is needed.
Despite all the negativity that is accompanying negotiations to this point, fans fearing that the entire season could be lost should be hopeful and optimistic at this point. They should take refuge in the fact that both sides are now engaging in more meaningful negotiations. Seven years ago, former NHLPA director Bob Goodenow was not willing to engage in any negotiations.
Although the exodus of players like Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere and Ryan McDonagh to Europe has continued, both sides realize that there is a deal to be made, but they just need to find the path to ending the lockout. It is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but at least the AHL and KHL are going to be streaming games on the Internet while the NHL and NHLPA duke it out in the boardroom.
The next real deadline is Oct. 24, because the league has only cancelled the schedule up to that point. If no meaningful progress is made by then, it is safe to say that the league could cancel games up until Thanksgiving.