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  • Writer's pictureVillanova Sports Law Blog

NHL Lockout On the Horizon

Updated: Feb 12

By Morgan Evans

The NHL uses collective bargaining negotiations to protect owners and players in their labor and employment discussions. The owners, NHL, and NHL Player’s Association are always involved in CBAs. The current CBA was adopted on January 12, 2013, following the 2012-13 lockout. One of the primary goals of a CBA is to divide the increasing profits between the players and the league. The group also negotiate contract conditions and terms, by providing a bargaining platform between the players, the organizations involved, and their owners to negotiate contracts and terms for a period of time.

Another NHL lockout could be on the horizon next September if the players chose to terminate their current CBA before next season. If they chose not to terminate it, then their CBA will be effective until September 15, 2022. At that point, those involved will have to revisit their terms and conditions that comprise of the CBA and come to some terms that they can agree upon for the next number of years.

The players will most likely have many issues that they will raise as points of negotiation for their next CBA. One of those key points will revolve around playing in the Olympics. Previously, a three-year extension to the current CBA was proposed to players in exchange for participating in the 2018 Olympics. This deal was rejected, an indication that players will want to renegotiate terms. The players would also like to eliminate their escrow clauses. Players currently have varying percentages held in escrow at the end of the season. The escrow is a guaranteed split between the owners and the players for the revenue of that season. This escrow deal is something which players wish to eliminate altogether. Some speculate that in order to have this escrow condition removed the players will have to trade long-term contract options in order to get escrow off the table. This could mean drastic changes for players who wish to sign long-term contacts with a team rather than having to resign every four or five years. Players would have a dispensable trait about them where they would constantly be recycled through the teams. Players will also negotiate for the use of the coming player tracking technology and data that is released, giving them leverage over their owners.

Though both the players and the NHL would like to avoid a lockout, there is the potential to see another. In 2004-05, a lockout caused a non-existent season. The season was reduced to 77 games in 2012-13 because of the lockout that season. Though neither organization claims to want a lockout or strike, commissioner, Gary Bettman, seemed optimistic that the groups can come to an agreement without shutting out the players. In order to avoid a messy situation that could cut the NHL season short, players, owners, NHL, and NHLPA should try everything in their power to not make the players strike or force them into a lockout with a deal the players will refuse to sign. Another lockout for the NHL could be financially disastrous, however, it could be inevitable as the only way that the players are able to get what they demand.

References: [1] NHLPA, “Collective bargaining agreement” January 2019. [2] Whyno, Stephen. “Lockout looming? NHL is 1 year away from key labor deadline.” Chicago Tribune, 27 Jan. 2019. [3] Dubow, Josh. “Bettman: NHL owners not ‘looking for a fight in CBA talks.” Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2019. [4] Id. [5] Wyshynski, Greg. “In CBA talks, NHL players should take strong stance on long-term contracts.”, 11 Jan. 2019. [6] Id.

*Morgan Evans is a first year student at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law and a staff writer for the Sports Law Society Blog.

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