by PuckStopsHere on 09/01/12 at 12:08 PM ET
On Labour Day weekend it makes sense to look at the NHL's labour problems. The NHL's plan is clear. They will maximize their profits by squeezing every dime they possibly can out of the players. They had record revenues after the 2004/05 lockout and can expect that into the future as long as they keep the lockouts a few years apart. There isn't any downside to the NHL financially in this model to lockout the players for a while. They will make back the money in reduced player costs. The NHL can expect hundreds of millions of savings over the lifetime of the agreement. The hockey that gets missed is the least profitable part of the NHL season in the fall when the NHL must compete directly with the NFL.
The players desperately want to get out of this system, but it isn't clear that there is a way that they can. Now that player salaries are linked to player costs, the only thing that matters is to negotiate what percentage the players get. Everything else is window dressing and does not change the NHL's bottom line. The NHL will demand the player's share drops every time there is a new CBA to be negotiated. A lockout is an acceptable part of the negotiations.
The problem for the players is they lose out with a lockout. NHL careers are short. If you lose half a season you will lose a million dollars or more. In order to make that money up you would have to break the owners and get a bigger salary in the future. That is an unlikely scenario. If the players make any gains in the negotiations, the gains are not for them. It is the next generation of players who reap the benefits. It isn't in the best interest of an individual player to do anything other than hold your nose and accept whatever the owners offer.
The problem for the fan is their game is held hostage with a lockout every few years. The only way to break the cycle is for the fans to abandon the game en masse so that the recurring lockout business model fails. That doesn't look like a probable scenario.
The game we love is being held hostage so that the owners can make more money. The fan's interests are not being heard at all. That is the state of the NHL
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