The NHL lockout is now in full effect, with no immediate end on the horizon. And why would there be, considering neither side appears to be willing to negotiate; the NHL won’t move off its “Cost Certainty” (aka: Salary Cap) demands, while the NHLPA won’t change its marketplace requests (if they can be called that). This work stoppage has left many fans worldwide with a lot of questions that neither party seems willing (or able) to answer. However, I’ve done a little research myself, and I will now try to answer some of these queries.
Note: As new information becomes released, new Q and A’s will appear here. Check this page regularly for new updates.
Most recent addition: Sept. 22
Question: Who, besides the big names (Bettman, Goodenow, etc…) play a key role in the CBA discussions?
Answer: Both parties have several key members who play a part in the day-to-day (or week-to-week as it appears to be now) negotiations. The main members are as follows:
The “Big Guns”:
Gary Bettman – NHL Commissioner
Harley Hotchkiss – Calgary
The “Big Guns”:
Bob Goodenow – Executive Affairs
Trevor Linden – President (Vancouver)
Question: Do players under contract before Sept. 15 still get paid?
Answer: In most cases, no. Currently, roughly 600 NHL players are under contract, and very few will receive some form of financial compensation. Those that do are players that are currently injured, such as Ed Belfour (TOR), or Jeremy Roenick (PHI). These players will have their salary paid by their insurance; the team will not likely have to pay a dime. Also, players that have signing bonuses that kick in this season will receive those, as they are not dependent on the complete fulfillment of the contract. Finally, players that have one-way contracts and were sent down before Sept. 15 will get paid their salary, as there is no AHL provision in the deal. However, most of these players were not sent down so the team could avoid paying their salary. Players under two-way deals will receive their AHL provisions, most often in the range of $50,000 – $75,000 USD.
Question: What are the status of contracts during the lockout?
Answer: All contracts during the lockout are in a “frozen” state. As mentioned above, no salaries are paid, and the contract is not in effect. As a result, in the event of a year-long lockout, all players’ contracts will roll-over a full season. For example, the one year, $1.55 M deal signed by C Mike Ribeiro in July that is in effect for this, the 2004-05 season, would now be in effect from 2005-06, with the same financial compensation. Of course, this only comes into play if the entire season is cancelled.
Question: If the season is shortened, which it will most likely be, what happens to player salaries then?
Answer: In this scenario, all contracts will become pro-rated. This means that players will, in a sense, get paid per game. If the season gets shortened to 41 games, a player making a base salary of $2 M will make just $1 M, but if 60 games get played, that same player would receive approximately $1,463,414.63.
Question: The NHLPA has reportedly proposed an immediate 5% rollback on all player salaries, with no strings attached. Why is that not acceptable to the league?
Answer: The aggregate (combined) salaries of every NHL team based on the average salary ($1.81 M) comes up to approximately $1.3575 billion dollars. A 5% rollback would attribute to a savings of roughly $67.875 million, a nice amount for sure. However, the NHL is claiming losses of $273 M, so they’d still be in the hole by over $200 M. Doesn’t look so good now, does it?
Question: Can players still be signed or traded during this work stoppage?
Answer: Nope, and in reality, why would teams want to make moves at this time? Sure, all teams will like to drop payroll, but who would want to pick it up right now, either through trade or signing?
Question: If the lockout persists for a long time, would yearly NHL events such as the Entry Draft still continue?
Answer: In a word, no. All events, such as the Waiver Draft, Entry Draft, Trading Deadline, Awards Ceremony, etc would be cancelled. In the event of the postponement of the Entry Draft, all 2005-eligible players would be thrown into the 2006 draft with all 2006-eligible players. One thing is for sure in this scenario: it’d be one heck of a draft.
Question: The OSHL has now begun play, but what happened to the new WHA?
Answer: The what-now? Oh yes, the new World Hockey Association, which is losing teams faster than the New York Rangers overpay to sign free agents. There are just four teams left in the WHA, but commissioner Bobby Hull remains hopeful that the season will start…in November, despite the fact that not one player has been signed and that there is no TV deal…and not every team has an arena deal. I can’t honestly see this league truly getting off the ground, they may eventually play a few games, but it’s going nowhere.
Question: Realistically, what would be the “drop-dead” date for this NHL season?
Answer: Many feel that as long as a new CBA can be agreed upon before mid-January, a season can be salvaged. But to be honest, that date would likely be too late. Back in 1994, play began while the CBA was being written out, but, not surprisingly, there were issues. This time, the owners have said that this will not happen this time around. The now-expired agreement was a whopping 159 pages long, and if there is to be some form of cost certainty, the new one will most certainly be more. Obviously, this takes plenty of time to write, so a more realistic drop-dead date appears to be around Christmas. What a present that would be…
Question: Both parties acknowledged that the players offered to play while a new CBA was being negotiated. Why would the owners reject such a proposal that would allow hockey to continue?
Answer: In a scenario like this, certain terms of the old CBA would still have to remain in effect in order to have the league run cohesively. And we all know who benefited most from that agreement. Of course the players would offer this, they all know it’s the only way to maintain the status quo for as long as possible. So, from the owners perspective, why would they agree to allow the problems they’re trying to fix, continue for an undetermined, and thus, unlimited period of time?
Question: Will this issue ever get resolved?
Answer: Of course it will, it’s only a matter of when, and not if. The problem is, “when” could be anywhere from two weeks to two years and quite possibly beyond. My advice: Start following the AHL more intently, and go out and support some good old junior hockey. But to get back to the question, yes it will get resolved, but that’s the only real certainty about the CBA, and even that lone automatic is a little iffy itself. Well, there is another certainty so-to-speak, and that is the media game the two parties are playing. All that rhetoric being spouted back and forth through the papers and TV, it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing an end to this for a while.
Question (added Sept. 22): Towards the end of the last lockout, there was some dissention between some of the owners. How realistic is it to say that in a few months, some owners may try to persuade Bettman to “cave in”?
Answer: Back in 1994, there were 24 teams in the NHL. In order to pass something through, such as the continuation of a lockout, Bettman needed 16/24 to (66.7%) to vote with him, so 9 disgruntled owners could make some noise, although it officially would have required 16. This time around, this is not the case. Bettman now needs the support of just 8/30 (26.7%) to push something through, like continuing the lockout. Unless this thing goes 3 or 4 years, it’s safe to say that the owners will officially be on Bettman’s side, and thus, will not cave in.