Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded and another NHL season is in the books, it’s time for hockey fans to turn their attentions elsewhere. The draft is coming up. Free agency is next. However, the biggest story of the offseason is likely to be the CBA negotiations.
The labor agreement between the league and the players’ union expires Sept. 15. There will be several issues on the table, from supplementary discipline to realignment to participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
As always, though, money will lead all.
Currently the players are guaranteed 57 percent of hockey-related revenues. But with the NFL and NBA having just cut the players’ share in those two leagues, some believe NHL owners will attempt to do the same.
If that happens, expect the NHLPA, led by new chief Donald Fehr, to dig in.
Fortunately, there’s no guarantee it will come to that. The owners know the players surrendered a ton to end the 2004-05 lockout by accepting a hard salary cap. And what of the countless press releases by the NHL trumpeting the league’s successes?
Sure, there are still struggling franchises. On the other hand, there are plenty that are extremely profitable. According to Forbes, the value of the Toronto Maple Leafs rose from $280 million in 2004 to $521 million in 2011.
In stark contrast, the NHL was claiming huge losses prior to the lockout that wiped away the 2004-05 season. Some franchises were saying they were better off going out of business than carrying on without cost certainty, aka a salary cap. Even the majority of fans agreed something had to be done.
We’re not hearing that sort of sabre rattling this time around.
“I don’t understand all the speculation and the degree of negativity,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said recently.
Look, the league and union know they’ll get absolutely killed by fans and media if there’s another lengthy work stoppage. In fact, they’ll get killed if there’s any work stoppage. Seriously, in this economy? Not worth it for either side.