The looming NHL Lockout 2012: Owners vs. Players

Yes, you heard right, it's just like a factory lock-out. Only this time where talking about millionaire pro hockey players possibly being locked out of arenas. What is this dispute and why is it threatening to threaten the hockey viewing pleasure NHL fans everywhere this winter?

The NHL, representing the franchise owners, and the player's association, NHLPA, the player's union, are currently embroiled in a battle over - what else - money. This is not the first time that the two parties have been at odds. In fact, the 2004-05 was canceled entirely because an agreement could not be reached when the league asked for a player salary cap. A lock out is in the realm of (ominous) possibilities, although one that no one, fans, players or owners, want repeated. 

This time around, the battle is over raw percentages of who gets how much of the pie. The latest figures thrown on the table by Gary Bettman ( longtime commissioner of the league – feared and hated by many) is 43% for players which was immediately rejected. The players now make 57% of profits. 

This grotesque greedy discussion sound 'off' in this day and age where most of the western world is suffering economically and making $1.5 million (the average NHL player's salary) sounds like a dream not worth waking from. And would you think you'll see the day where Manchester United would close it's doors because of a food fight with it's players? Me thinks not. Not that I entirely blame the NHL. Only 12 of the 30 teams in the league were profitable. Which means a vast majority were not. Of the 12 teams that made money, four had profits less then $3m, six made profits of more then $10m, two made between $5 and $10m. So these are not huge Wall Street type profits. 

Importantly, if the NHLPA was indeed looking to protect the welfare of the players, perhaps it should fight for the better safety. Violence is to this day sadly an integral part of the sport. Certain young players are drafted based solely on their fighting skills. They are gracefully called 'enforcers'.

The truth is – weather the pro leagues of hockey, American football, boxing, etc want to admit it or not – repeated concussions, often caused by direct hits to the head threaten players' health in a very real way. Often it's their mental health which is compromised after retirement. In certain instances these injuries have suspected of causing death, like in the case of NY Rangers' fighter Derek Boogaard who in 2011 after repeated concussions was found dead at the age of 28.

The players' association should be the biggest advocate for making the rules surrounding safety more stringent. And they are entirely mum on this topic. The only time you hear them is when it comes to paychecks. 

So there it is. As a fan it's really very difficult to continue to foot the bill for all this greed at a time when going to a hockey game for most has become a bourgeois outing. Perhaps if there is another lockout this season, many players will go play in Europe where salaries are reasonable and where they still do play 'For the love of the Game'. Otherwise perhaps the two sides should stop acting like spoiled children and know a good thing when they have it. 

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