NHL Labor Issues

Looking back at the NHL’s shortened and postponed seasons

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Like pretty much every other sport in North America, the 2019-20 NHL season is currently suspended with little idea as to when — or if — it will resume due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This is not the first time an NHL season has been interrupted or cut short.

The league has been stopped by global pandemics, lockouts, and a strike. One thing that did not bring the league to a stop, though, was World War II as the league continued on as a means of attempting to boost morale in North America.

Let’s take a look back at the previous stoppages.

1919 Stanley Cup Final

This is easily the most similar example as to what we are dealing with right now — a global pandemic shutting down, well, everything.

During the 1918-19 season it was an outbreak of the Spanish Flu that impacted the Stanley Cup Final between the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Seattle Metropolitans and the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.

There had already been five games played in the series (each team won two games and tied one) with a deciding Game 6 set to be played on April 1 in Seattle. But several players on both teams had become ill, with Montreal’s Newsy Lalonde, Joe Hall, Bill Coutu, Louis Berlinguette, and Jack McDonald all either hospitalized or bed-ridden. Hall died four days later due to pneumonia that was brought on by the flu.

Game 6 was officially cancelled hours before the scheduled puck drop.

Montreal briefly considered using players from the PCHA’s Victoria team, but was ultimately prohibited from doing so. At that point Montreal attempted to forfeit the Stanley Cup to Seattle, a gesture that was refused by the Metropolitans due to the circumstances.

No Stanley Cup was awarded that season.

The 1919 season is included on the Stanley Cup with the following engraving:

1919
Seattle Metropolitans
Montreal Canadiens
Series Not Completed

The Hamilton Tigers walk out

Technically this wasn’t a league stoppage, but it did impact the on-ice results in a significant way.

During the 1924-25 season players for the Hamilton Tigers went on strike after demanding a pay raise due to the season being increased from 24 to 30 games. Players were not given a pay increase. The team’s argument was that players were contracted between specific dates regardless of the number of games played. The player’s sat out, with then-league president Frank Calder declaring the Montreal Canadiens league champions. Montreal went on to play in the Stanley Cup Final where they would lose to the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, making it the first time an NHL team had lost the cup to a team from a rival league.

Following that season the Tigers were purchased by a bootlegger named “Big Bill” Dwyer who moved the franchise to New York where they would become the New York Americans.

The 1992 Players’ Strike

This was the first time labor negotiations put a halt to the NHL season.

The NHLPA called the strike on April 1, just before the conclusion of the regular season and the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The major factors involved in the strike: free agency, arbitration, playoff bonuses, and how to share revenue from trading cards.

The players felt that by walking out so close to the start of the playoffs it would give them an advantage in negotiations because teams were so dependent on playoff revenue. A Federal Mediator eventually joined the negotiations and after 10 days the strike was settled, allowing for the completion of the regular season and playoffs.

The result: An expanded regular season from 80 games to 84 games, two neutral site games per season to gauge interest for potential league expansion, larger playoff bonuses for players, and changes to the free agency and arbitration process.

The Pittsburgh Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup, their second Stanley Cup championship in a row.

The 1994-95 lockout

At the conclusion of training camps for the 1994-95 season, the league locked the players out as CBA negotiations were unable to result in a new deal.

This would be the first time a league fight over a salary cap would impact the season. The league eventually softened on its hard cap stance and proposed a luxury tax system, something that the players viewed as another form of a cap on salaries.

The lockout lasted for more than three months, resulting in 468 regular season games being lost.

In mid-January, a 48-game season was started. It was, at the time, the shortest NHL season in more than 50 years.

The New Jersey Devils would go on to win their first ever Stanley Cup, defeating the Detroit Red Wings in a four-game sweep.

The 2004-05 lockout

This turned out to be the first — and currently only — time a major North American sports season was cancelled in its entirety.

It was also the first time since 1919 that the Stanley Cup was not awarded.

The issue, just as it was in 1994-95, was the introduction of a league salary cap. The league eventually got what it wanted (a salary cap) with an agreement between the two sides finally being reached in July, 2005.

Along with the financial impact, there were several rule changes that followed, from the introduction of the shootout, to the elimination of the two-line pass, to the three-point game that gives teams a point in the standings for losing in overtime or a shootout.

With no season to play and no results, the league used a weighted lottery draft to give all 30 teams a chance at winning the No. 1 overall pick in 2005. The system gave teams with the fewest playoff appearances and No. 1 overall picks over the previous three seasons the best chance to win it. It was ultimately won by the Pittsburgh Penguins who selected Sidney Crosby with the top pick.

The 2012-13 Lockout

The third lockout in two decades began on Sept. 16, 2012 and was finally resolved on Jan. 6, 2013. The main issues were the NHL’s attempt to cut player’s share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent to 46 percent, change the definition of hockey related revenue (cutting the player’s share even further), term-limit on contracts, free agency rights, and salary arbitration.

The new agreement ultimately put a limit on free agency contracts of seven years (eight years for players re-signing with current teams),  mandatory acceptance of arbitration awards under $3.5 million, and an amnesty buyout period that would allow teams to buy out contracts that did not fit under the new league salary cap.

A 48-game season was played beginning on January 19 with all games being played within each conference.

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup, their second in three years, by defeating the Boston Bruins in six games.

The 2019-20 pause

Now we have the 2019-20 season, currently paused due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

There is still no timeline on when the season will resume.

Here is a look at where the season stands as of this moment.

MORE:
Hockey leagues following NHL’s lead
Uncertainty awaits as NHL puts season on ice — for now
How grassroots hockey has been affected by COVID-19
Where the NHL left off with 2019-20 season in limbo

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Marner rejected offer sheets; CBA talk

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Mitch Marner rejected a couple of offer sheets because he only wanted to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. (NHL)

• Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is expecting to have some conversations with defender Torey Krug, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. (NBC Boston)

• Did the players hand Gary Bettman a victory already? (The Hockey News)

• Cooler heads prevailed with the NHL’s CBA extensio. (Edmonton Journal)

• Just one game in and Jack Hughes is already flashing his potential. (Nj.com)

• Zamboni with Whalers logo is sold to scrap yard. (WFSB)

• How the Vancouver Canucks should deploy rookie defender Quinn Hughes. (Daily Hive)

• The New York Rangers prepare to start a new era of hockey on Wednesday. (Elite Sports NY)

• The Canucks and Brock Boeser were able to compromise, but difficult days are ahead. (Sportsnet)

• The Edmonton Oilers could really try Connor McDavid‘s patience. (Spector’s Hockey)

• Can Max Domi maintain his offensive impact in a move back to the wing? (Habs Eyes On The Prize)

• Jim Montgomery and the Stars will use the preseason to adjust to some rule changes. (Dallas Morning News)

• Alex Nylander makes strong first impression with Chicago Blackhawks. (NBC Chicago)

• Top-five key players to a successful season for the Washington Capitals. (Stars and sticks)

• Dylan Larkin by the numbers (Red Wings)

MORE:
• 
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Penguins-Flyers likely to highlight Jan. 19 opening day

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One of the NHL’s fiercest rivalries could kick off the 2012-13 season.

That’s the word out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening as Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review reports the NHL is targeting a Jan. 19 start date, with a game between the Flyers and Penguins — in Philadelphia — as one of the marquee games of the day.

According to Rossi’s sources, rivalry contests will highlight the opening day/night schedule, setting the tone for a 48-game regular season in which teams will reportedly play divisional opponents seven times and other conference foes twice.

More, from the Tribune-Review:

Philadelphia‘s Wells Fargo Center is booked for Penn State men‘s hockey in the evening, but the Flyers are tentatively scheduled to face the Calgary Flames at 1 p.m.

A 48-game schedule will preserve most of the previously booked arena dates, but matchups will change because clubs will play only in-conference opponents.

The Penguins-Flyers rivalry was arguably the league’s fiercest a year ago, culminating with an epic opening-round playoff series in which Philadelphia beat Pittsburgh in six games. The teams combined for 56 goals, 309 penalty minutes and three separate suspensions totaling six games.

The series also put the Claude Giroux-Sidney Crosby rivalry on a new plateau. The pair spent the offseason exchanging barbs, with Giroux accusing Crosby of injuring his wrists and Crosby saying he didn’t recall doing it — but that if he did, he wasn’t sorry about it.

Note: Before we all go getting ahead of ourselves with this report, some perspective — NHL schedule makers have contingency plans for a number of scenarios, so it’s unfair to suggest this indicated a new CBA has been reached.

Rossi also notes that “several sources” say the plans are subject to change.

Was canceling the Winter Classic what CBA negotiations needed?

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For some, the cancelation of the 2013 Winter Classic was the worst moment of the lockout.

But could it also be the most important?

Friday’s scrapping of the NHL’s annual outdoor game was met with doom and gloom. The Winter Classic is, after all, the league’s signature regular season event and a television ratings bonanza.

Canceling an event of this nature was significant. In addition to the public relations nightmare and lost viewership, an estimated economic impact of $30-$35 million fell by the wayside.

So too did the Hockeytown Winter Festival and, at the risk of getting all schmaltzy on you, the joy and excitement of the 80,000-90,000 people that had already purchased tickets.

The impact of the cancelation resonated with players. Red Wings defenseman Ian White, who was set to participate in the Winter Classic, said as much to the Windsor Star:

“If [Gary Bettman’s] willing to cancel that, I don’t know why he’d want to play a season after that, because that’s the highlight of the year,” he explained. “So if he’s willing to throw away that game, then the balance of the season, I would think, is definitely on the line.”

Bettman’s reputation precedes him in these instances. This is the third lockout of his 19-year tenure as NHL commissioner, and he remains the only commissioner in North American pro sports to lose an entire season to a work stoppage.

Fear that scrapping the Winter Classic would lead to a canceled season might’ve been very real for players. Perhaps that’s why, during Thursday’s conference call, NHLPA members expressed they wanted their leadership to do more negotiating.

Something else to consider…

We’ve seen past instances where labor negotiations were kickstarted by a significant event — a recent example came during the NFL-NFLRA lockout, which started in June and lasted nearly four full months, with replacement officials working all four weeks of the preseason and 48 regular season games.

Despite both sides appearing entrenched in their respective positions and far from a deal, the work stoppage was solved in 48 hours after a highly publicized incident during Seattle’s 14-12 victory over Green Bay on Monday Night Football.

A controversial, game-deciding touchdown call by a replacement official was roundly criticized — on-air, ESPN color commentator Jon Gruden called it “tragic and comical” — and within days, the regular officiating crews were back working games.

Now back to hockey.

On Friday, the Winter Classic was canceled.

Within 48 hours, the following happened:

— News leaked of the NHL making concessions to its “Make Whole” policy.

— NHL commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr for a lengthy discussion that “covered a lot of ground.”

— Reports surfaced that the NHL and NHLPA were set to resume meetings this week.

All of which begs the question: Did the lockout just have its Golden Tate moment?

Red Wings confirm — if there’s no Winter Classic, there’s no Hockeytown Winter Festival

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It turns out the NHL lockout won’t just affect the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.

There’ll be some collateral damage as well.

According to a report from Crain’s Detroit Business, the cancelation of the Winter Classic also means the cancellation of the Hockeytown Winter Festival, a weeklong celebration of hockey at Comerica Park featuring games at the junior, collegiate and American League levels.

“The 2012 SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival events will only take place if the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic game is played,” Wings Senior Director of Communications John Hahn told Crain’s via email.

Released in June, the schedule for the Winter Festival stretches over two weeks and is filled with events:

DEC. 15-26: Celebration of Hockey featuring amateur games, corporate outings and open skates.

DEC. 27-31: Outdoor Festival featuring interactive games, autograph signings, face painting and ice sculpture exhibits as well as musical performances and entertainment.

DEC. 27-28: Great Lakes Invitational featuring the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, Western Michigan Broncos and Michigan Tech Huskies (competing for the 2012 MacInnes Cup.)

DEC. 29: Ontario Hockey League doubleheader featuring the Windsor Spitfires vs. Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers vs. London Knights.

DEC. 30: American Hockey League Game featuring the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliates of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

DEC. 31: Red Wings-Maple Leafs Alumni Showdown.

With the NHL canceling all November games on Friday, there are rumblings the Winter Classic could be axed as early as next week.