By far the most dysfunctional of the four major sports when it comes to collective bargaining, the National Hockey League will again shut down due to a labor-management dispute.
On Thursday, NHL owners voted unanimously to lock out the players if a new collective bargaining agreement was not reached by midnight Saturday. With no deal, and no negotiations set, the league will shut down for the second time in a decade and the third time in Gary Bettman‘s tenure.
In nearly twenty years under Bettman, the NHL has yet to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the players without first locking them out and canceling portions of the season. That run of futility is unmatched by any other sport.
Even the NBA, whose owners have locked out the players four times in seventeen years, was at least was able to avoid a lockout in 2005.
Bettman was an NBA executive from 1981-93, most recently as senior vice president and general counsel. During that period, NBA owners were able to extract the most significant concession in the history of sports labor from the players — the establishment of a salary cap. The NHL lost the entire 2004-05 season to achieve the same goal.
This time around, NHL owners again find themselves looking in envy at their NBA counterparts. Last year, NBA owners locked out the players and were able to extract $1.8 billion in givebacks over the course of a six-year deal ($3 billion over ten years in the unlikely event neither side opts out after six years).
NHL owners are seeking similar concessions — a reduction from 57 percent of league revenue to under 50 percent (the NBA players’ share of revenue declined from 57 percent to a 49-51 percent ‘band’).
Unlike the NBA or the NFL, which also locked out its players last season, the NHL does not have much time to negotiate. The regular season is scheduled to begin in less than a month. In 2004, the first cancellations began within the first week of the lockout.
The 2012 NHL lockout will be the third sports work stoppage in the past two years (all owner-imposed lockouts). The last time there were three work stoppages in such a short period of time was 1994-95, when NHL and NBA owners locked out their players and Major League Baseball players went on strike.
The 1994 MLB strike, it should be pointed out, remains the most recent professional sports strike. Since then, all eight pro sports work stoppages have been owner-imposed lockouts (1994-95 NHL, 1995 NBA, 1996 NBA, 1998-99 NBA, 2004-05 NHL, 2011 NFL, 2011 NBA and 2012 NHL).
(Some information from The New York Times)