Another Season Bites The Dust?

Well, miracle of miracles! The lockout is over and the games are about to begin. And for what? Has anything changed? The league is still full of teams that will not earn much money. The most profitable teams will subsidize the losers. Canadian cities that could support a team, (Saskatoon, Hamilton) will likely not get one. Will the fans forgive? We'll see. It will also be interesting to see if the league decays into Lockout III some day. They very well might.

The National Hockey League 2012/2013 lockout is an affront to fans, players and support workers. The owners knew that the previous contract agreement was going to expire and yet no deal was reached. For the third time under the leadership of Gary Bettman, the league failed to start a new season on time. With so much at stake, the owners and players should have been able to come to terms before yet another embarrassing lockout was ever necessary.

The league says that the owners needed to obtain concessions from the players in order to ensure long term survival of hockey in North America. Early in the negotiations with the players, the league proposed financial terms which they indicated were essentially rigid. The player union rejected the terms. Since then, the player union has proposed various terms which have been rejected by the league. The deadlock has resulted in a lot of financial pain for many people, besides owners and players.

Various small business operators rely on additional revenue when hockey is in season. Bars, restaurants and hotels see an increase in activity during game nights. This is especially true in Canadian cities that host NHL hockey teams but it is also more widespread. Many smaller communities have such establishments that see increases in business on hockey nights as well.

Many people are directly employed in the hockey business. Arena workers, referees and other associated employees are now unemployed. While some of these people have fallback positions, there must be many who are suffering from the loss of employment. Although their situation should be temporary, many who suffer the most are ill prepared for any monetary disruption.

Ultimately, people decide to level blame for the hockey lockout on someone. Some think that the owners are right. Others think that the players are right. Many think that Gary Bettman is to blame. In this dispute, one fact is quite unusual: the players are proposing financial terms to the owners. Each has been rejected. In most labor disputes, the management proposes terms and the labor union accepts or rejects the offer. Management must know how much revenue is earned through business operations. They must budget a certain amount to be paid for labor. The labor union accepts or rejects the offer. Why is the NHL not operating this way?

In some negotiations, both sides evaluate the revenue earning potential for the organization. They then come to an agreement on a sharing formula. This works fairly well when full disclosure of revenue is discussed by each side. In the case of the NHL and the players' union, this approach is not working. The owners have not been entirely forthcoming with financial information. As well, they have revised their figures but not revealed details to the union. As a result, the players have proposed terms which have been rejected by the NHL since the acceptable cost, (known only to the NHL owners), is lower than the player terms. As a result, the lockout continues.

The third lockout orchestrated by Gary Bettman represents a major stain on the reputation of the NHL. While team owners and players suffer from the loss in income, many other support workers do to. Time will tell whether the 2012/2013 lockout voids the entire season but financial hardship is happening to some people now. The lockout should have been avoided.