NHL and Players’ Association remain ‘worlds apart’ in CBA talks

The great economist, philosopher and socialist Karl Marx once said, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”.
For Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL, history is repeating itself as a looming lockout dwells over the league, a mere seven years after a work stoppage that halted the entire 82-game 2004-2005 regular season and playoffs. That resulted in 1,230 games lost in the regular season alone without even accounting for the usual two-month long playoff foray.
Although the players — who take home millions of dollars — are affected by the stoppage, it is the merchandisers, sponsors, television partners and most importantly the loyal fans that are stricken by the halt in play.
For some, it has become a common occurrence for the National Hockey League (NHL) to experience such turmoil and stoppages. In fact, this will be the third lockout for seven current NHL players. Fans are flocking to other sports as a result, particularly in markets where Hockey takes second fiddle to the likes of the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB).
With the NHL rapidly having gained popularity and traction amongst non-traditional markets, one has to wonder why the consideration of a lockout even crosses the mind of league executives.
While the majority of fans are simply focused on what happens on the ice, Hockey is a business, and a lucrative one at that. Aside from the division of hockey-related revenue between the owners and the players, major topics of discussion towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) include hockey-related revenue, revenue sharing between teams, contract lengths, salary cap restrictions and rule changes.
Informal negotiations began in late June, with the NHL submitting its first offer on July 13 to the NHL Players Association (NHLPA), who are led by former MLB Players’ Association Executive Director Donald Fehr, a 35-year veteran in the professional sporting industry.
The NHLPA responded with its first proposal on July 26, while addressing a far more varied agenda from the NHL’s initial proposal. The proposal sparked a sense of positivity that negotiations were progressing and a resolution was near. However, the league did not alter its stance and hardly blinked at the players’ offer.
Upon learning the rest of the NHL’s proposal in late-July, the players put forth an alternative perspective by tabling a second offer.
Despite Commissioner Bettman pinpointing Sept. 15 as the deadline to reach a deal before a lockout occurs, fans and more importantly the players themselves felt optimistic at the progression of discussions.The two sides have since recessed, with Bettman and Fehr each proclaiming that they are worlds apart in philosophies.
At this point, fans can only hope for the best, but ultimately prepare for the worst. We have come to expect disappointment, as evidenced by the 2004-2005 lockout. It remains a major blemish on the league’s reputation and a low point at that.
However, there is still quality Hockey in other avenues that will fill your appetite for puck. For an early look at prospects who may ply their trade in the NHL someday, give the American Hockey League (AHL) a try. The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and our local Niagara Ice Dogs are always a good bet.
The Brock Badgers Varsity Hockey teams play in the very even and competitive Ontario University Athletic Association (OUA) and are always looking for fan support down at the Seymour-Hannah Centre.
Whatever it is, the sport of Hockey will remain alive and well even if the NHL closes its doors at some point this season.

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