NHL Lockout: Which Side Will Break First, Players or Owners?

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent ISeptember 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11:  Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League presents the Stanley Cup to Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings after defeating the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals at Staples Center on June 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Devils 6-1 to win the series 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NHL and NHLPA will have "informal CBA discussions" on Monday, according to TSN's Darren Dreger, and there appears to be no indication that a deal will be completed by October.

Many expect the players to break at some point in the near future, but Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times offers a different view on the matter:

The general assumption is that the owners have the resources to wait it out, and that the players have no real leverage. Presumably, they will have to accede to some version of the owners' demand that they accept substantially less than the 57 percent of league revenue they received the last seven years.

But are there pressure points acting on the owners that might induce them to settle for a deal more quickly?

The potential pressure points include the Winter Classic, the extravagant Jan. 1 outdoor game and NBC telecast that has proved vitally important to the N.H.L.'s visibility, and the need to avoid further financial disruption for the estimated 16 to 18 money-losing teams.

Klein also mentions a group of owners who could play an important role in the outcome of the negotiations:

The players' association is hoping that enough owners of money-losing teams will push Commissioner Gary Bettman to accept some version of the union's offer, which includes an expanded revenue-sharing plan among N.H.L. clubs designed to benefit struggling franchises like the Panthers, the Blue Jackets and the Islanders.

Klein offers a few reasons why the owners may break, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman isn't the type to back down in labor struggles. It's not something that a person with his kind of ego would do.

Although the owners of franchises losing money would probably want their teams to get back onto the ice this winter, in many situations, these clubs do not make up a huge majority of these owners' wealth. Most of them have other businesses that earn them a lot of money, so they probably won't have the same desperation to get back on the ice as the players could have very soon. 

The question to be answered is not who will break first, it's when the players will break. If history is any indication, the owners will not back down at all, and the players need to know that.

#Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews on NHL owners: "If they want to hurt their own game and drive it into the ground that's what they'll do."

— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) September 24, 2012

I'm sure most of the players who were part of the last lockout would tell us today that they would have handled the entire experience much differently if they'd known before hand that the cost of playing games with billionaire owners was a full season off their careers.

I can't see veterans like Jarome Iginla, whose time to win a Stanley Cup is running out, having the appetite to sit out another season to defeat the owners in these CBA talks.

The players will likely realize that the money, as well as a chance to win the best trophy in sports, isn't worth sacrificing to attain the highest possible percentage of hockey-related revenues (HRR) in the next CBA.

With the outcome of the last lockout still fresh in the owners' minds, they will be confident that a similarly beneficial result can be achieved again, even if some aspects of the NHL have changed a lot in the last seven years.

Even though there could be some owners who are worried about the financial impact that a lockout could have on their struggling teams, I refuse to believe that their unity as a group is weaker than the players'. They are rich men who aren't likely to hurt their ability to earn the most money long-term just to get back on the ice this season and please the fans.

The players will break—it is almost inevitable. And hopefully they come to their senses sooner than they did last time.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.