Winter Classic Tickets Went On Sale,But Will There Be A Game?

The amount of restraint it must have taken Zetterberg not to elbow Bettman in the face during this photo is incredible.

Not that I’m concerned about snow or rain or cold wiping out the game.  I’m concerned that for the second time since the turn of the century, the NHL owners will lockout the players.

In 2004 the NHL owners and players went to war, wiping out the entire 04-05 season and only after what was reported as the players crawling back from Europe, where most of them played, and agreeing to whatever the owners wanted was the lockout settled.

There was salary rollback, revenue losses, a salary cap put on teams payrolls, the works and it was widely reported that the owners flexed their muscle, showed the players who really has the power and took control.

Now, just 7 years later, the NHL owners are again, furious at how the players are still making so much money.  The owners claim poverty yet sign players to 12+ year contracts worth $100MM plus.

The owners are rumored to be out to “correct the ways they were wronged” in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement (which is funny b/c the proposal last signed was basically everything they said they wanted, yet they hate it now).

They have made an initial proposal to the players that, in most peoples eyes, is outrageous.  The players currently see 57% of the revenue, which is how the salary cap is set each year.  The owners are rumored to have proposed that the players cut or revenue will drop anywhere from 11-14%, possibly down to 43% of the revenue.

Imagine this if you will: your boss, brings in a new employee at 3-4 times what you make (annually) then the following week tells the whole company that they need to cut pay by 14% because they aren’t seeing enough of a revenue stream, despite revenues being at an all time high, and they have been at an all time high for 7 straight years, each year, setting the new high!

That is basically what has happened in the NHL, with the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and Shea Weber this off season (and a few in previous years) then the owners claim they can’t earn money while paying the players what they do, while at the same time seeing more money than they ever have before.

Another sticking point on the proposal could be a 5 year maximum contract for players…this becoming an issue after players started signing lengthy contracts so teams could get around they salary cap they had requested be put in place.  10, 12, 15 year contracts have been signed in an effort to make the “salary cap number” of players easier to work with so teams can build Stanley Cup Champions.

So the owners want to get rid of a problem that didn’t exist ten years ago but they created themselves after implementing the salary cap during the last lockout/CBA negotiations.

There are quite a few other aspects of the owners proposal to the players that is very lopsided and reminiscent of the old reserve clause in baseball that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curtis Flood went to the Supreme Court to fight…and he won, giving players the right to become free agents after a certain amount of time with teams.

These points are 10 years in the league before free agency, an incredible way to to keep those teams that have 2-3 years of bad drafting at the bottom of the league with almost no chance at turning things around, despite the NHL’s attempts to make the league more balanced.

Entry level contracts that last 5 years instead of 3…imagine a 22 year old Sidney Crosby, already an MVP winner and twice a 100+ point scorer in the league, making $750,000.  Still a large amount of money to most people, but mere peanuts to what other professional athletes considered the best in their games make…this is what they are trying to push the players towards.

The owners submitted this proposal to the NHL Players Association over three weeks ago and there has been no counter proposal (I don’t think NHLPA Executive, Donal Fehr, writing “go f*ck yourself” on a napkin and giving it back to Gary Bettman counts as a ‘counter offer’).

The two sides have until September 15th to reach an agreement before the old CBA expires, and even though they don’t have to lock out the players, the NHL could continue under the old CBA until a new agreement is reached, don’t expect the owners to go through with that though.

And if the owners are as adamant this time around as they were in 04-05 that they get their way, don’t expect hockey to start in October.  Then they will quickly risk putting the Winter Classic in jeopardy…and if they cancel it I better get my money back and that better include the outrageous $10 per ticket “service” charge (how could they be so broke? look how much they charge for a game?!?!).

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