For the third time in less than 20 years, the National Hockey League has locked out its players. The league-wide lockout occurred when the collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players' Association expired Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
Training camp, which was set to start throughout the league Friday, will be the first casualty of the work stoppage. Many hockey analysts feel that a delayed 2012-13 season could start on Thanksgiving Day or on New Year's Day, with the league's annual Winter Classic.
"This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room," the NHL said in a statement Sunday. "The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans."
This work stoppage is the fourth in NHL history and third lockout during the tenure of Commissioner Gary Bettman. The last one in 2004-05 lasted an entire season, and now there is concern that the momentum the NHL has gained since that time could be lost if another CBA isn't agreed upon prior to the season. Are both sides willing to lose another season behind this fight?
"If that's what it means," said Capitals forward Brooks Laich, the team's player representative. "Players have long memories."
They remember the 24 percent rollback in salaries owners imposed on them during the last CBA negotiations and for the first time, a salary cap was implemented. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has said publicly that the players aren't looking to overturn the cap system right now. However, the NHLPA is adamant that another rollback won't happen.
"We just want to make this system right and make it fair," Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "I mean, we're not dumb. Obviously we want a great deal for both partners."
As always, the core issue is money—how to divide a $3.3 billion pot of revenue. The owners want to decrease the percentage that the players get, while the union wants a guarantee that players will annually receive at least the $1.8 billion in salaries paid out last season.
"It's not like this just came upon us," Laich said. "We've been talking about a new CBA. We've had CBA prep meetings as far back as two years ago, so the players are prepared. Last time we thought we got the raw end of the deal. We have to fight this time."