NHL Lockout: Why the NHLPA Should Wait for the Owners' Unity to Crumble
As the NHL lockout enters November, the NHLPA needs to remain strong because the owners' unity could get weaker as we head toward the New Year.
In 2004, it was understood that all the owners were willing to burn a whole season because they knew exactly what they wanted: a hard salary cap linked to revenues. In 2012, the owners' stance isn't as clear because the wants and needs of each club differ. What's even murkier is 30 teams' willingness to go all the way in achieving whatever Bettman, Batterman and Jacobs think they need to get a CBA win.
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Ask many NHL owners outside of this small circle and if they answer truthfully they'll tell you they know as much of what's going on as you or me. Some teams will also tell you a two- to three-year slope toward 50/50 split works just fine, and to potentially burn the whole village down in an effort to keep fighting for teams like Phoenix and Florida is just plain wrong. Like McCabe and Walker in 2004, many owners' frustration lies in not having their voice heard when it matters most.
It's no secret that some owners aren't too happy with the lockout, while others have welcomed the lockout because they need changes to the system that will help their franchises that are losing money.
Before the lockout, New York Rangers owner James Dolan said (via ESPN's Katie Strang), "The only thing I can say is that I want us to play hockey."
The players are hoping that there are some owners who will eventually stand up to Bettman and Jacobs and push to get a deal done. The longer this lockout goes, the chances this happens will likely increase.
Many of the rich owners won't want to see their teams continue to lose revenue while the league and its players argue over important labor issues such as hockey-related revenues.
The new owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bell and Rogers, bought the team to make money since it's the most profitable franchise in the league. According to Forbes, no team in the NHL earned more revenues during the 2010-11 season than the Leafs.
Since the Leafs are going to participate in the Winter Classic, the team has a great chance to bring in an enormous amount of revenues this season. The Classic is a money-maker for the league and the two teams involved.
According to John Buccigross of ESPN, the Winter Classic could be axed by the end of the week, which won't make Leafs management happy.
When you look at Forbes' list of the teams who earned the most revenue during the 2010-11 season, seven of them (Bruins, Rangers, Canucks, Flyers, Red Wings, Penguins and Blackhawks) could make a Stanley Cup run this year.
Not only are these teams losing a lot of possible revenues during the work stoppage, the opportunity to make a deep playoff run (which also makes teams a lot more revenue) is also in jeopardy.
While there are several owners who want to start earning revenues from their NHL teams, others just want to win. When Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula bought the team last year, he said "If I want to make some money, I'll go drill a gas well."
I'd be willing to bet that Pegula isn't too thrilled with this lockout.
He bought the Sabres to win the Stanley Cup, and after his team made some impressive moves in the summer to build a stronger and deeper roster, he's probably one owner who would like this lockout to end sooner rather than later.
The players knew that a lockout was coming well over a year ago, so many NHLPA members prepared for many months without paychecks by saving more money than normal.
The players are well-prepared if there's another lost season.
If NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr can convince his union to keep playing the waiting game, the owners will eventually break and the players will get a deal that's better than the one that the league last offered.
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.
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