NHL Lockout 2012: Overseas Option for Players Gives Owners Less Leverage

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 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

The NHL lockout has begun. Unfortunately, there seems to be no sign of it ending anytime soon.

Owners are attempting to get a larger percentage of profits from the players, but there have not been too many useful negotiations to this point.

In a message to the fans, the NHL released on its website:

While our last CBA negotiation resulted in a seismic change in the League's economic system, and produced corresponding on-ice benefits, our current negotiation is focused on a fairer and more sustainable division of revenues with the Players—as well as other necessary adjustments consistent with the objectives of the economic system we developed jointly with the NHL Players' Association seven years ago.

Basically, the players have been getting too much of the revenue compared to other leagues and the owners want that to be changed. Unfortunately, they do not have the leverage in this scenario.

Hockey players have a built-in advantage for when the league begins a lockout: They can play overseas.

When the NFL had a lockout before last season, there were no options for players looking to earn a paycheck. While there are lesser leagues in America and Canada, it would not provide players with anything more than a chance to stay in shape.

Basketball players had more options when the league was forced to cancel part of its season. There are leagues throughout Europe and Asia that can afford the salaries of some of the best in the sport. According to HoopsHype, about 70 athletes chose that option and signed with a franchise in another league.

However, these were mostly players that would struggle to make a team anyway. Some stars like Deron Williams and Tony Parker made the trip, but most key players decided to stay home.

Still, this is nothing compared to the exodus of NHL players that leave once playing in North America is no longer an option. 

The New York Times reports that about 400 players signed with other leagues during the 2004-2005 lockout. This represents more than half of the league. Stars like Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar have already agreed to play in Russia.

While the two sides attempt to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, the players have no urge to hurry the process. They are making money while playing and they are the ones that must give up their revenue.

Conversely, the owners are losing money. According to Forbes, the league generated $3.3 billion last season, but most teams still finished in the red for the year. These people cannot afford to waste the opportunity to sell tickets and merchandise for too much longer.

Eventually, both sides will come to an agreement. For once, however, it is the players who have the upper hand in the negotiations. Hopefully, this will come to a quick end for the benefit of the fans.


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