It’s hard to think that it’s been nearly seven years since the NHL agreed on a Collective Bargaining Agreement following the lockout that saw the complete termination of the 2004-05 season.
That agreement is set to expire this September, and it’s back to the negotiating table for the League and the NHLPA. According to Commissioner Gary Bettman, neither side has begun discussing a new agreement, but talks will start “sooner rather than later, but we’re not there yet.”
Obviously it is still several months away, but analysts believe a lockout — possibly similar to the one the NBA dealt with this season — is not out of the question. One indication that both sides are prepared to play hardball is the Players Association vetoing the League’s proposed re-alignment plans. Bettman expressed his disappointment with the players, and said the League would explore all of its options to find a solution, including using legal actions.
Another reason to be worried is Donald Fehr, the leader of the Player’s Association. The name alone should send chills up any sports fan’s spine. Fehr was at the helm during the 1994-95 MLB lockout, showing he isn’t scared to keep his players off the field to get the best deal possible for his players.
A lockout would be devastating for the NHL, which is gaining popularity and continues to out arenas year after year. A lockout just six years after losing an entire season would be hard to come back from. The die-hard fans would return, but the casual fans the League has been able to attract with events like the Winter Classic and four-straight stellar Stanley Cup finals with all big-market clubs would be hard to attract back to the game following any work stoppage.
Fans should remain cautiously optimistic and hope the League and its players understand what is at stake, as they walk a thin line this summer on labor talks.
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