If You Want to See Hockey at Christmas,
That’s right, hockey fans…find your local lake or river – make SURE it’s frozen – and then pick up the sticks and have a good time. Why is that? Because the NHL has now officially erased every hockey game off the calendar straight through December 30th as the labor dispute moves ever forward as slow as humanly possible.
It was on Friday that the league filed their class action complaint in federal court only a few hours after the NHL heard a rumor that the Players’ Association would ask its Executive Board to proceed. Proceed with what, you ask? Well, for those who have been wrapped up in the NFL or simply got sick of waiting for hockey to reappear on their television screens, the NHL lockout is a labor dispute that began way back on September 15th, when the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ran out. It was only a month before the 2012/13 NHL season was about to begin, when the owners of the league’s franchises declared a lockout of the members of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA). A new agreement could not be settled upon. (Sounds like the Fiscal Cliff drama, right?)
The press release offered this past Friday stated just about every ‘suit’ that could possibly be filed, was. The NHL Players had, or will be asked to, vote in order to authorize the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s Executive Board to proceed in their best interests and continue to represent the players in collective bargaining. With this, came the announcement that the NHL filed a Class Action Complaint in Federal Court in N.Y. seeking a ‘declaration’ that would confirm the continuing legality of the lockout.
On top of this, the NHL also went ahead and filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the Players’ Association engaged in an ‘unlawful subversion of the collective bargaining process and conduct that constitutes bad faith bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act.’
Yes, it sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo and legal jargon to me, too. The worst thing about this is the fact that 526 games have been lost and that includes the New Year’s Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend that fans loved to watch at the end of January.
All this began because the owners wished to reduce the players’ share of 57% of hockey-related revenues (this was a guaranteed percentage, by the way). They wanted to add term limits, erase salary arbitration, and change free agency rules. The union, however, wanted to increase the sharing of revenue between owners and add a fixed salary cap that would not be linked in any way to league revenues. The union was unsuccessful when it challenged the league’s ability to lock out players of three Canadian teams, and this has now become the third lockout to be seen in the last nineteen years (the others occurred in 1994–95 and 2004–05.)
Now, during this lockout, there have been some NHL players heading to play in other leagues in North America and Europe – most likely, just to be able to get back on the ice and play the game they love.
Money has been lost by the league as well as businesses that actually thrive on NHL souvenirs, gifts, as well as hotels and restaurants in various areas where visitors and fans come to stay in order to see the games – this is their main source of income.
Offers were exchanged by both the league and the Players’ Association, with the union’s last offer containing the fact that there must be an unlinked salary cap that would steadily increase over five years. The Commissioner, Donald Fehr, was the one who argued the fact that if the NHL continued to see revenue increases then the players’ share of revenues would, yes, drop from 57 to around 52%, BUT then they would increase to 54% in the last two years of the deal.
Their talks did resume in the beginning of November with the NHL and Players’ Association meeting over six days in an undisclosed location. Here is where the NHL offered to pay a $211 million provision over the first two years of the deal in order to honor the existing player contracts. On the flipside of the coin, the Player’s Association wanted $590 million. A little later in the month, the Association offered a new proposal, but it was still over a $180 million difference between what the NHL was proposing.
Mediation, meetings, lawyer’s yapping…after a while, fans wonder if the players or the league even care about the fact that NO revenue is coming in when fans are not allowed to see any games. And when you keep erasing the games off the schedule, NO tickets will be bought because everyone is basically sitting in their homes doing absolutely nothing.
Now, the players do have options that include being eligible for the American Hockey League and, as stated above, the more experienced players have chosen to play in European leagues. Approximately 175 players have joined teams in Europe, but this is no help to the fans who are not able to head to Russia or Switzerland for the holidays in order to see their favorite players.
STOP with the constant money issues! Remember the fans! You know? We’re the poor ones out here who work hard and simply support your league with our interest and passion for hockey. Mess with us long enough, and the NFL, MLB, NASCAR – heck, even the National Badminton Club will get our ratings, support and money. And for hockey, we WILL just go in the backyard and have a ball! (Excuse me…puck.)
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Until Next Time, Everybody,