A few months ago, alarming predictions sounded from many corners about the possibility of the NHL entering another lockout when its current seven-year collective bargaining agreement ends on Sept. 15. Can it really happen after the disaster of 2004-05 and with seemingly good financial growth in the game since that lost season?
With the NBA having gone though a recent lockout of its own, and players forced to accept a cut to 50 percent share of league revenues, the first thought of many in hockey was, "Well, I guess we can see how much NHL players are going to have to get next time, too."
NHL players are currently receiving 57 percent of league revenues. Based on the NBA's recent deal, logic dictates that they will be asked to take a lower amount. This is where a potential standoff could occur, as NHL players may not be in as giving a mood as they were the last time, when they lost a full season of pay and then took 24 percent rollbacks to their existing contracts when play resumed.
NHL revenues have increased since 2005, partially because of the players' givebacks and other things such as a better television deal, a stronger Canadian dollar and still-strong overall attendance.
Negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association have yet to take place, though Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday in Las Vegas that the league is ready to meet "any time" with the NHLPA to get things started. New NHLPA boss Don Fehr, however, is still doing his due diligence on all matters concerning his membership. It figures to be a battle of the titans when Fehr and Bettman finally start talking across the table. Too bad cameras won't be invited.
SI.com asked two high-powered NHL player agents -- Los Angeles-based Allan Walsh of Octagon Hockey and Denver-based Kurt Overhardt of KO Sport Inc. -- to give us a snapshot of the current mood from their side, and an idea of what the future might hold. Walsh's many clients include Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat and Milan Michalek, while Ryan Kesler, Brian Elliott, Kevin Bieksa, Brandon Dubinsky and Matt Carle are among Overhardt's.
I believe in open market systems and the benefit and value of such systems to all parties involved. If a team can afford to spend $75 million in player costs, why not allow it? If another team only wants to spend $40 million, so be it. Sports are competitive on and off the field.