At 11:59 p.m. on September 15 the NHL players will be locked out because of the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. Since September 1, hockey fans have been having horrible flashbacks to the 2004 missed season.
While labor disputes are nothing new in the NHL—their last three CBA expirations have resulted in a lockout—this one could last as long as the 2004 lockout.
Jaromir Jagr played in the KHL before signing with the Flyers
Similar to the NBA lockout, the players will have the option to go play overseas to supplement their income during the work stoppage. The Kontinental Hockey League in Russia will be a big option for out-of-work NHL players.
The KHL announced some restrictions on signing NHL players earlier in the week but there are still plenty of opportunities in the league. Sweden and Norway also have high level leagues for NHL players to compete in.
Many NHL players are of European descent, so it isn’t a stretch to think that they wouldn’t mind staying in their home countries while the NHLPA and NHL work things out.
If players get injured overseas they may be subject to a suspension depending on the terms of their contracts. But if they insure their contracts then they’ll still be paid by their policy instead of the NHL.
In the days and hours leading up to the September 15 deadline there has been a flurry of action. Shane Doan re-signed with the Phoenix Coyotes for four years, Kari Lehtonen received a five-year contract extension to remain with the Dallas Stars and Milan Lucic extended his contract three more years with the Boston Bruins.
The reason for some of these contracts is that the players want the known terms of the expiring CBA and signing bonuses.
Signing bonuses will still be paid by the team during the lockout. All signing bonuses are guaranteed money so they cannot be withheld from the players.
That reason alone was most likely a factor in many of these deals getting done in the final stretch of the CBA. Shane Doan even made it public information at the beginning of the free agency period that he would sign before the lockout began.
NHLPA Head Donald Fehr and the players are in it for the long haul
Last season the players put 8.5% of their paychecks into an escrow account. While they will not be receiving their normal checks throughout the season they will get 8% of their salary from last year back from the escrow account.
This means unlike the NFL and NBA lockouts earlier this year, the players will have plenty of money coming their way early on.
NFL and NBA players had well-documented struggles such as Delonte West sleeping in his car and the Dallas Mavericks locker room.
With no immediate financial uncertainty to force a settlement with the league, there is a chance the lockout could be strung out just as long as 2004. We all hope that isn’t the case though.