LONGUEUIL, QC. — All summer long, fans of the National Hockey League have been dreading the thought of having to go through another lockout, but with midnight having now passed and the NHL and NHLPA having not come to an agreement (not even close), the lockout is no longer nightmare to fear but a reality with which to live.
Since the start of the negotiations, it hasn’t appeared that either side has been in much of a hurry to get a deal done, with representatives of both sides meeting briefly and infrequently. As the deadline neared, it appeared negotiations intensified, with meetings happening more frequently and the meetings themselves lasting longer however in the end, both sides are still worlds apart and the lockout is not much of a surprise to anyone.
The owners led by Gary Bettman have been quite aggressive in their pursuit of what they feel is the deal they need right now but have made concessions along the way, going from an initial offer of 43 per cent of total league revenue for the players, to 46 per cent in their second offer, and were apparently ready to concede another $250-million to $300-million in their final offer before the deadline.
The players lead by Donald Fehr have also made offers and concessions, however every counter-offer that was made to the NHL was based on the players not losing the 57 per cent of league revenues that they have right now. The offers consisted of short-term concessions, with the players at worst recuperating this 57 per cent by the end of the term of the collective bargaining agreement. Although other issues were also on the table in the negotiations, league revenues have held all the attention and both sides from the start appeared to be speaking a totally different language.
In the end, both sides are about $1-billion apart on this issue alone, and it doesn’t appear that a deal is about to happen anytime soon. I ask myself, “Will it take days? Weeks? Months? An entire season? Again?” I don’t have the answers to these questions but this deadline was simply a formality.
It has been clear for a long-time now that both sides were worlds apart at the negotiation table, and nobody should have been expecting any type of a last minute deal. Both sides didn’t even take the time to meet on this “final day.”
Obviously, it is only a matter of time before they are back at the table. Negotiations will eventually kick-start again, and at a point a deal will get worked out. There will be NHL hockey again.
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For now, everyone is affected by this lockout however and nobody enjoys it. The league loses revenue, the players don’t receive their pay, and fans don’t have their sport to watch or listen. Those who rely on the NHL season for employment now find themselves searching for work or other means of income, small businesses suffer — the impact is very widespread.
I don’t think there’s any reason to be sad about there not being NHL hockey at what should have been the start of the season (October 15), when the root cause of it all is the fact that a bunch of rich people cannot come to an agreement on how to share billions of dollars in revenue. I don’t think anyone should be crying over it and certainly not losing their minds or sleep over it because it clearly isn’t the end of the world.
Of course there is a void to fill for everyone and I’m in a great position to know, writing about the Montreal Canadiens, but that’s exactly what we all have to do, find a way to fill that void.
At All Habs, first and foremost we we will continue to cover the Canadiens and prepare you for the upcoming season whenever it begins. We will also continue to report on the CBA negotiations as they develop. We will be covering the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League (farm team of the Montreal Canadiens), junior league teams for which play Canadiens’ prospects and should Canadiens’ players start their upcoming season in the KHL or other leagues, we will be covering those as well.
If you’ve never taken the time to watch an American Hockey League game or even the East Coast Hockey League for that matter and live in an area where you have the opportunity to see them play, go out and watch them. If you live in an area where you have access to see junior hockey, go and check it out — junior hockey is an exciting brand of the game. There’s lots of hockey out there to discover and it usually comes much much cheaper. Maybe you have a relative, like a nephew or niece that plays local minor hockey and who you’ve never had a chance to see play. Well this might be your chance.
Hockey should not lose because of the failed negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA. The league and the players who can’t agree can lose, but the rest of hockey shouldn’t, it should gain. Maybe fans can’t fill NHL arenas right now, but there’s a whole lot of other arenas out there that hockey fans can fill, and we should.
Follow @stevofarnham on Twitter.