by PuckStopsHere on 05/17/12 at 02:57 PM ET
As hockey fans enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs, it is hard not to think about the problems on the horizon. The Central Bargaining Agreement ends this summer. There was a season lost to lockout the last time this occurred. The NHL essentially broke the player’s union and dictated the CBA. They brought in a salary cap and escrow system. It turns out the NHL decided that isn’t good enough for them. The main reason for that is the player’s union is still weak and will have little choice but to give in to NHL demands.
Currently the players get 57% of defined NHL revenue under the salary cap system. This number will be reduced to 50% or less. Likely there will be some disruption in NHL play to accomplish this. The pre-season will be interrupted and the start of the season may be delayed.
My thought on this is I want the NHL to shut up about this and just play hockey without interrupton. The NHL has had a rapidly growing revenue base that grows much faster than inflation. The league as a whole is healthy. Some individual teams are not healthy financially and this is because they are in bad markets. There may not be 30 legitimate NHL markets. This isn’t a CBA issue. Anyone suggesting the CBA should fix this is ignoring the problem that the markets lose money consistently and the CBA did not cause that.
I don’t really like the salary cap system. I don’t like how it has created a league without elite teams. There certainly aren’t any this year. That is a loss for hockey fans. There is nothing on the table likely to fix this. The problem most fans bring up is that they want the salary floor lowered. We want more zombie franchises with no chance of winning. Probably some markets will be perpetual zombies that never have a significant payroll. That is progress apparently.
It is hard to blame the players for any of this. The NHL is demanding all the changes and the changes are not in hockey’s best interests. The only interest that matters is the wallets of the NHL. The players are irrelevant to the process. They buckle under and accept whatever the NHL offers. It is Donald Fehr`s job to find a way to make them relevant and I don`t see how he will succeed. The fans are held hostage in the process. There will likely be a disruption in play at the beginning of the season while billionaires (owners) bicker about how to get more money in their pockets and the millionaires (players) give in to their demands. The new system will likely be even worse for the fan if history is a guide. But hey we have the playoffs to enjoy and pretend that isn`t the real big story.
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