The owners and players met in Toronto on Thursday to discuss their expiring CBA agreement, but apparently neither side had much to say. The meeting spanned less than two hours and reporters were met on the other end with news that no common ground had been found.
The biggest hang up, not surprisingly, is money.
“We believe we’re paying out more than we should be,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. Executive Director of the NHLPA, Donald Fehr, saw things a little differently.
“From the players’ standpoint, they want a fair agreement,” Fehr said. “They want one that is equitable, they want one that recognizes their contribution.”
Longtime NHL fans are wary of tense negotiations like this, harkening back to the last time the league had a CBA disagreement; it was 2004, and the entire season was wiped out as a result. But the sport of hockey rebounded nicely. According to the Washington Post, “The current CBA has seen the NHL grow from a $2.1 billion industry to one that pulls in $3.3 billion annually — a fact that isn’t lost on either side.”
Of course, it took the league seven years to see that kind of growth, and its popularity still pales in comparison to that of the NFL, MLB and NBA. Furthermore, hockey’s season – from exhibition to Stanley Cup Finals – spans all three of those sports, so should the 2012-13 season become abbreviated or even canceled, the casual fan probably won’t bat an eye at the loss.
I know, I’m beating a dead horse here. But if you’re reading this, you’re a hockey fan, so you know how hard it is to catch on with the average sports fan. If this situation goes to a lockout, it could be devastating to the sport.
Talks are set to reopen on Tuesday in New York. Both sides plan to negotiate for a while, as they have cleared out the week’s schedule for meetings. They had better make some headway quickly, because the league’s current CBA expires in just under three weeks.