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Answers to your lockout questions
The NHL lockout lasted 113 days, cost at least a third of the regular season and was another stain on the stewardship of Commissioner Gary Bettman.
But there will be a 2012-13 season, albeit one that could be as few as 48 games.
The league and the NHL Players Association agreed to the framework of a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement early Sunday morning. The players are expected to ratify the deal shortly.
FOXSports.com breaks down what’s known about the new deal and who benefits.
Who were the winners in this lockout?
That’s something that can’t be determined immediately, evidenced by the previous lockout that cost the 2004-05 season. The owners appeared to have throttled the players — who lost a whole season of paychecks and were forced to accept a salary cap — at the time.
But the agreement that expired on Sept. 15 turned out to be a boon for the players.
The players wound up with 57 percent of league revenue for the 2011-12 season, far better than the cut received by the two major US sports with a salary cap. (NFL players get about 47 percent of total revenues and the NBA players take about 51.5 percent.) The NHL owners — who insisted on linking the salary cap to overall league revenue — didn’t expect league revenues to rise 50 percent from when the lockout killed off the 2004-05 season to $3.3 billion last season.
As a result, many teams were just as poorly off at the end of the most recent CBA as they were at the time of the lost season.
What did the players give up?
It's maybe not as painful as the salary cap they had to accept last time, but the NHLPA reportedly had to accept contract limits (seven years for free agents and eight for a team looking to sign a current player) and maximum salary variance (no more than 35 percent per season).
Both are meant to protect owners from themselves.
Weeks after the end of the last lockout, the New York Islanders inked goalie Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract — one of the most dumbfounding deals in league history. In the seasons since, New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk (15 years), Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (14), Ryan Suter and Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild (13 years each), Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (13) and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (12) all have signed lengthy deals.
Those deals can become albatrosses for organizations, although many teams tried to lessen the risk by front-loading such long-term deals. While the league has intervened and nullified Kovalchuk’s original deal in New Jersey, the new salary variance policy could be the only way to reign in such outlandish contracts.
Clubs will be allowed to buy out one contract after each of the next two seasons.
Players retained the right to go to arbitration, and the owners agreed to honor contracts (or at least a large portion of those contracts) under a “make whole” provision that will fund salaries early in the CBA.
What did the owners give up?
Depends on which franchise you’re talking about. The owners who suffered the most with this work stoppage are the most valuable franchises in the sport, including the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers — all of which lost millions in ticket sales and regional TV revenue.
Those are also the clubs that pushed against increased revenue sharing, something the NHLPA was a proponent of as a means to help the struggling clubs. For as much as teams such as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers were helped by seeing the players’ share of revenue cut, those same teams will get a major increase of funding by the more stable clubs.
Revenue sharing is set to increase about 33 percent to $200 million to aid the league’s struggling clubs. About half of that money would come from the 10 most profitable franchises in the sport.
The owners managed to keep the salary cap and had it cut in the first year to $60 million, $4.3 million less than last season. But the cap reportedly will return to $64.3 million in the second year, and teams will be allowed to exceed the cap in the first year to account for previous contracts.
How close did the two sides come to another season cancellation?
The two sides still had almost a week to come to an agreement to save a 48-game regular season, thought to be close to the minimum number of games to give the season a sense of legitimacy.
The NHLPA twice let deadlines pass to approve a disclaimer of interest, which would have decertified the union and converted it into a trade organization. That would have allowed players to individually sue the NHL — much like several NFL players did when they were locked out before the 2011 season — and could have put the season in very serious jeopardy.
When two strong-willed individuals such as Bettman and NHLPA executive director and former MLBPA union boss Don Fehr are involved, there was rightfully some concern as to whether a deal could be reached.
What remains unresolved?
Participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics will not be part of the CBA, TSN.ca reports.
That is a serious issue since the game will be held in Sochi, Russia. Many owners would rather not stop the season and put their most valuable assets on the line for a contest they don’t feel benefits the league.
Some Russian players — including Ovechkin — already have hinted that they will stay in the KHL even after the NHL season resumes. If the NHL chooses to forgo the Winter Games, the league could find itself without some of its better Russian-born players.
It also wasn’t readily clear what the league’s drug policy — already the weakest in pro sports — will be.
What does the agreement mean to the on-ice product?
This comes down to exactly what the schedule will look like. The NHL is reportedly looking at either a 48- or 50-game schedule. (The first games will likely be played on Jan. 15 or Jan. 19, depending on which route the league takes.) The condensed schedule is expected to be heavy on intra-conference games, minimizing travel and emphasizing rivalries.
That would benefit Eastern Conference teams, who — outside of a couple exceptions (most notably the Winnipeg Jets) — have a much less strenuous travel schedule than their West Coast counterparts. With fewer days off expected in the new schedule before the playoffs begin, that could play a major factor. The end result of the last time the league had a shortened season — a 48-game season in 1994-95 — was an Eastern Conference (New Jersey Devils) sweep of the Western Conference (Detroit Red Wings) in the Stanley Cup Final.
The teams are currently scurrying to get their players back from European leagues. Days before the agreement, NHL teams had already quietly prepared for a short training camp. There will be rust, but the modern hockey player likely won’t arrive at the training facility out of shape this week. It would stand to reason that teams which did not undego massive changes before the lockout would have an edge, at least early in this truncated season.
How will the fans react?
Hockey’s venture toward becoming a niche entity in the minds of many sports fans was sealed with the lost season. There will always be hardcore hockey fans who, while resentful of the most recent work stoppage, will return immediately.
The league bounced back quickly after losing an entire season. While the NHL did cancel the Winter Classic and All-Star Game this time around, it will still get a good chunk of the season along with the playoffs in. There isn’t nearly as far to rebound.
Also, the NHL has something it didn’t have last time: a meaningful TV package.
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