NHL Lockout: Why the NHL's Situation Is Worse Than the NBA's Was

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League speaks to the media at Crowne Plaza Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lengthy guaranteed contracts.

Revenue sharing that allows money-losing teams to get subsidized by money-making teams.

We're talking about issues that have impacted the NHL and resulted in a lockout, right?

Sort of, but those were also the issues that impacted the NBA's decision to lockout its players last year (source: ESPN.com).

The NBA found itself in an untenable situation last year, according to NBA commissioner David Stern. That's why the league locked out its players last summer.

Throughout the lockout that went from July 1 until Nov. 26, Stern sounded quite pessimistic about the NBA having any kind of season in 2011-12.

Just when Stern was at the precipice of canceling the entire season, however, the two sides came to a miraculous agreement.

Reducing the percentage of revenues that were paid to players and siphoning money away from the profitable teams to the money-losing teams were key issues for the NBA, which also come into play in the current NHL lockout.

If the NBA was able to resolve the problem—even if it occurred with the clock ticking—can't the NHL do the same thing? Aren't Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr as likely to come up with an alternative to save the season as Stern and NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter were a year ago?

Therein lies the problem.

As much as Stern seemed to enjoy posturing and playing hardball with the players during the course of the lockout, his track record showed he did not want to call off the basketball season. He wanted the NBA teams to play the majority of the season, have an NBA postseason and crown a champion.

For some reason, Stern wasn't interested in proving that the NBA could come back from a canceled season. He didn't want to take that chance.

Bettman does not have the same kind of outlook as his old boss did. He's the only North American sports league commissioner to lose an entire season, having cancelled play in 2004-05.

Fehr went through the wars when he headed the MLB Players Association. When he was a younger man, Fehr was seen as somewhat of a hothead and was often hostile to the commissioner's office.

Fehr has matured over the years, however, (source: Toronto Globe and Mail) and he doesn't let the other side's objectionable personalities change his negotiating stance.

Fehr is not just going to roll over because the commissioner's office is trying to paint him as the villain, though. He is a strong leader who will hold his position.

He demonstrated in his initial offer that he was willing to work with the NHL and compromise to make a deal, but he's not going to give away the store.

The two sides are playing a waiting game, much the way the NBA did throughout its lockout a year ago.

But while Stern and Hunter ultimately wanted a season more than they wanted to win the lockout, the same cannot be said of Bettman.

He has proven he will close the doors to his store and keep them closed for at least a year if he doesn't get just what he wants.

Stern understood the bigger picture. Somehow, Bettman fails to grasp that concept.