If last year’s NBA lockout was a shoving match between owners and players, the NHL’s current situation is a street fight.
The NHL Players’ Association has self-imposed a Jan. 2 deadline to file a disclaimer of interest and effectively dissolve the union, which would set in motion the groundwork for players to file antitrust lawsuits against the league and its owners (via ESPN). That’s what happened in the NBA last year, but the results could be much worse for the NHL if the NHLPA adheres to its own deadline.
The NHL has already missed more than half its originally scheduled season. If a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by Jan. 11, the 48 games remaining beyond Jan. 19—the earliest date that the league could commence playing—would be all but lost.
The prospect of any part of an NHL season in 2012-13 looks extremely dismal at this point. The fact that neither side immediately balked at the owners’ Dec. 27 offer looked promising at first, but all progress could be, and probably will be, lost by the end of Wednesday.
NHL fans shouldn’t expect a peaceful resolution this season. The divide between the players and owners is vast, and Bettman has done nothing but give a face to the disdain that NHL fans are feeling as the season slips away.
While full-season lockouts rarely happen in sports, NHL fans know all too well what it feels like to see an entire season evaporate. In 2004-05, the NHL cancelled its season due to the inability of both sides to come to an agreement on a new CBA. The fans came back, only to be subjected to another debacle less than a decade later.
NHL owners know how devastating the lockout is to their fans. Several owners privately voiced their disapproval of canceling the entire season, but it may be out of their hands at this point. Bettman has the situation in a chokehold, though the players may throw their gloves to the ice by potentially dissolving the NHLPA.
While the situation may be resolved by the end of the regularly scheduled season, it likely won’t happen before the Jan. 11 deadline, and fans shouldn’t be hopeful for a 2012-13 season. Given the acrimonious relationship between parties and the lack of concrete progress to this point, the NHL season looks to be lost.