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2012 very well may go down as the year of sports lockouts. None of these lockouts, however, has been as devastating to fans as the ongoing NHL lockout. Shortly after the NBA and NFL picked up from their own respective player lockouts, professional hockey players were benched due to ongoing contract negotiations with team owners, their fourth in less than two decades, resulting in the loss of at least 422 games.
This current lockout officially began on September 15, but its roots go back into the summer. When a new player contract was approved by the NHL in mid-August, the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) rejected the terms of the contract, beginning a dispute between the players union and the owners. The NHLPA rejected the initial contract and requested more financial information from the NHL. By the time the contract expired on September 15, 2012, no agreement had been made and the league made the decision to cancel the first 422 games.
What is the Dispute All About?
The two major disputes in the contract negotiations center around shares of profits generated by the teams and salary caps. There are smaller issues related to contract minimums and maximums, but these problems could be more easily resolved.
Despite the floundering economy, hockey revenues have actually improved by over 100% since the last contract negotiations in 2004The agreement that was devised to share the smaller revenues almost ten years ago is considered by the NHL to be unfair in the current climate. The owners claim that much of this growth has been due to the rise in the Canadian dollar, and that the increased revenue has had little effect on the bottom line, with many teams still losing money. The players feel that the increased profits are due to them regardless, and are skeptical about the league’s finances.
The plan proposed by the league would see profit sharing by players significantly reduced. The players are currently entitled to 57% of profits generated by a team, and they are rejecting a plan that calls for an immediate reduction of profit sharing to 49%, with incremental reductions down to 47 percent by the end of the six year contract. The players have proposed a contract in which the shared amount would decrease to 52% by the end of the six-year contract. For a point of comparison, at the conclusion of the most recent contract negotiations in their respective fields, NBA players are seeing their share of profit dropping from 57% to 49% during this current contract.
When Will the Lockout End?
The latest news regarding the lockout is that federal mediators will intervene in the contract negotiations and attempt to set contract terms that will satisfy both the owners and the players. Mediators played a significant role in the NFL and NBA lockouts last year, but they don’t have strong track record with the NHL. In 2004, when federal mediators intervened, the NHL season was cancelled three days later.
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