NHL Owners Lock Out Its Players

By: Catherine Kenyeres

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has halted the start of the NHL hockey season by locking out its players. Can the impasse between the NHL owners and its players ever be mended? Bettman reports that the NHL league has a desolate bottom line that lost $224 million US last season. The NHL hockey league is reported to have lost $1.8 billion over the 10 years of its collective bargaining agreement.

Bob Goodenow, the executive director for the NHL Player’s Association has another version of the story, claiming that it’s not true at all. In the middle of this dispute is the salary cap. Goodenow concedes that the hockey players do indeed, make a lot of money. The salary cap is a device whereby the NHL team owners would remunerate the players less than they would normally get and the owners aren’t budging on the issue.

And for now, it’s a stalemate.

But who, other than the owners, got the game into this mess. The owners, themselves have trailblazed into unstable market areas and unwisely, perhaps, invested most of their money into player’s salaries instead of marketing and promotion. The owners have used the game of hockey to secure guaranteed programming for their cable TV investments or used professional hockey, for example, as an add on to an amusement park.

The players on the other hand, have worked tremendously hard from such a young age to become a spectacular athletics. Starting with the 6 a.m. morning practices involving numerous years in minor hockey. Given the above, it’s no wonder why the players have little or no trust where the owners are concerned. The players have little faith in the numbers that the owners report. There is question about moving expenses from one business entity to another and dubious accounting of their ticket revenue.

The future of professional hockey is dependent upon a strong economic system. But what is that system? Some argue that the 2004-05 season is in jeopardy. If the season is cancelled, the Stanley Cup will not be awarded to any team and this hasn’t happened since 1919 and Saturday night won’t be the same in Canada without hockey.

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