NHL Lockout: Why Is It So Hard to Get to 50/50 Split Between Owners, Players?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2012

Donald Fehr and the players should make the next move in its negotiations with the NHL.
Donald Fehr and the players should make the next move in its negotiations with the NHL.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In about another week, the NHL will likely announce that it is cutting another two weeks worth of games from the schedule.

The NHL is serious about the business of locking players out of its league. It probably does this better than any of the other leagues.

Major League Baseball used to be No. 1 in this area, but it hasn't locked its players out since 1994 and it long ago ceded its place to Gary Bettman and the NHL. This is the NHL's third lockout since MLB canceled the 1994 postseason as a result of its last lockout.

Bettman is an easy villain in this lockout. He seems to revel in his role as annoying terrier, locking onto the pant legs of the NHLPA and refusing to loosen his grip.

During the last lockout, it seemed quite clear that the players were going to have to take a big hit, because 76 percent of league revenues were going their way (source: SI.com).

A season-long lockout resulted in the players getting 57 percent of the hockey related revenues in the next deal (source: CBSNews.com).

Since then, the game's financial status has improved quite a bit. The league signed a 10-year, $2-billion contract with NBC Sports and overall revenues have jumped from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion (source: Sportsnet.ca).

You don't have to be a financial expert to realize the NHL is making more money than it did after the 2004-05 lockout.

It would seem that keeping the positive momentum going rather than stopping the action with a lockout would be in the best interest of the NHL.

But it has not worked out that way.

The NHL says that while revenues are up, just a few of its individual teams are profitable and that's why it wants to reduce the players' share to 46 percent (source: SI.com).

The players won't accept that, and they probably won't take a 50-50 split either.

They are willing to take less than the 57 percent, but going all the way to 50-50 would be another huge cut for the players.

However, the owners made the last move in the negotiating game and Bettman and his crew are waiting for NHLPA boss Donald Fehr to come through with a second counteroffer (source: New York Post).

It seems the puck is in the player's zone.

They have pushed for increased revenue sharing among the teams to offset the losses of the unprofitable teams. The NHL has said that it is willing to alter its revenue-sharing scheme, but that's not enough to close the gap.

The next move is up to the players. It probably will be a lot closer to 50-50, but unless the NHL is going to change its definition of hockey related revenues, 50-50 remains a pipe dream at this point.

And the lockout will continue.