The NHL is closed for business.
The collective bargaining agreement officially expired at 9:00 p.m. PST on Saturday, putting the 2012-13 season in jeopardy. The NHL and its players association remain far apart in negotiations for a new deal, and have not yet found a way to divide revenues that reached 3.3 billion last season despite several meetings and proposals in recent weeks.
Details of the divide have been well-documented, but the main sticking point seems to be how to handle current player contracts. The owners would like an immediate reduction in salaries, whether it be actual dollars or a percentage of revenues, while the players believe they deserve every penny of the deals they signed with their respective owners.
I think there needs to be some honor in the contracts that were given out, or else dont give them out, Dan Boyle said on Thursday.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: They asked for a huge chunk of our salaries, and the attitude is I dont think theres one player that wants to give back any percent of their salary, which guys already did eight years ago.
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The NHLPA would also like to see increased revenue sharing between the big market and small market clubs in order to maintain a healthy, 30-team league.
While other issues remain, such as the owners request to limit lengths of future contracts to prevent teams from circumventing the salary cap, its believed those issues can be resolved quickly after the core economics are decided.
But, that could be awhile, as press conferences on Thursday in New York by commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Donald Fehr only added an exclamation point to how far apart the two sides remain when it comes to money.
The dominoes will fall, I think, but obviously the main issue is the money they want back, essentially. Lets call it a rollback it is what it is, said Boyle, who is one of several Sharks that were in the NHL during the last work stoppage. I think thats the one where were sticking to it. I was there in 04 and we gave back a lot. We agreed to their model, essentially. There are flaws, were all aware of that. But, thats one of those sticking points where we cant really move on it.
While there is little optimism that the season will start on time, it is still a remote possibility. Saturday was the official end of the current CBA, but training camps were not set to open until Sep. 21 while the regular season starts on Oct. 11 (for the Sharks its Oct. 12 in Anaheim). Players would likely need at least a 10-day to two-week training camp with one or two exhibition games minimum prior to the start of the season, and the league will likely not cancel any games until the end of September at the earliest.
That is a best-case scenario, though. Its much more likely that the season will be delayed until at least Thanksgiving, or possibly New Years Day when the Detroit Red Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium for the Winter Classic.
Without a place to play, several NHL players could set their sights on Europe, including a number of Sharks. Joe Thornton has an open invitation to return to the Swiss team with which he suited up with during the last lockout in 2004-05, while young players like Justin Braun, Logan Couture and T.J. Galiardi all said this week that Europe is a definite possibility for them, as well.
Their first choice, of course, would be to wear their teal and black sweaters and play in the National Hockey League.
Youd like not to miss another year, or three months, but thats just the reality. Its part of business. The owners just dont want to let us play right now, said Thornton.