Recent rumors suggest that if the NHL and NHLPA cannot hammer out a deal by January 2005, team owners in the NHL may disband the league and start anew.

Since the Lightning were one of the very few to make a profit during last year's season, and it took going all the way to the Stanley Cup finals to create the team's first profit in years, it's quite obvious that something is wrong with the current setup of the National Hockey League.

The players' union is afraid of a possible salary cap, and will hear of no such option in labor talks. The problem is that NHL players demand a salary that is disproportionate percentage-wise to the share of business the NHL pulls in via attendance and TV share when compared to other major sports.

The NHL insists that the players salaries are the source of major financial losses across the league. The players point out that the two teams that made the finals this year were low payroll teams, proving that a team does not have to spend ridiculous amounts of cash to build a championship team.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. Most NHL players do not deserve the ridiculous salaries they get. However, it doesn't excuse the shoddy business practices on behalf of the NHL over the past 15 years, during which the league has seen a steady decline in popularity.

Not to say that the other professional sports have done any better, with MLB being the Yankees vs. the world, the all-style, no skill NBA (as proven by the olympics), or even the soon-to-be-cut Brock Lesnar in the NFL.

The existing collective bargaining agreement expires on September 15th, and if a deal is not reached by then (which doesn't appear likely), this year's season will likely be shortened or cancelled altogether if nothing is agreed upon. This is disasterous for the NHL, as a strike will deplete the already diminished fan base.

But will the NHL disband and the team owners start anew? Not likely, or, at least, not in the next year. NHL players want to play and regardless of what kind of new CBA is worked out, they will get more money in the US and Canada then they can in Europe. If the NHL were to fall apart, it would more likely be a gradual result of a shortened or cancelled season this year.

Here's hoping things can be worked out in the next two weeks.

Creative Commons License


2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes