Friday, 14 September 2012

The Impending NHL Lockout

A few comments on the impending NHL lockout of the players:

1. Unlike the last CBA negotiations, the players are unified and active. Here is a list of the 283 players that were in New York City on Thursday for the NHLPA’s Executive Board and Negotiation Committee meetings. [Editor’s note: tremendously proud to see twelve former Boston College hockey players attend. Not only does Coach Jerry York and his staff bring talent to Chestnut Hill he brings individuals who understand the big picture.]

2. Labour law in Canada is different than labor law in the United States. This will impact the lockout on the margins. A brief overview of the nuances, and how it pertains to professional hockey, can be found here.

3. Once the lockout begins, one of the most important parts of the previously negotiated CBA will be the “exemptions to regular waivers” definition. Why? Because this will trigger which players the NHL teams will be able to control (i.e. send to the minors) after a lockout and which ones they can’t—who will be free to go overseas or forced to sit out. In general, younger players can be assigned to the AHL or ECHL as many times as a team wishes without the need for the player to clear waivers. And make no mistake, once there is a lockout the AHL and ECHL will be flooded with these players.

To see the actual parameters of which players the NHL teams control, refer to the following chart.

Veteran players who have played in a sufficient number of NHL games would have to clear waivers, making them susceptible to having another NHL team select them, before being assigned to the minors. Thus, most veterans are unlikely to be put through waivers and thus have the ability to decide whether or not to play overseas.

[Editor's note: the waiver process has already started, here's an update.]

4. Regardless of your opinion as to which side—the NHL or NHLPA—is right, please remember that many, inside and outside of hockey, will be affected negatively by this entire episode. Additionally, and this may show my bias, only four percent of NHL players play 1,000 games—meaning these players typically have short careers and, more importantly, a small window in which to be compensated for being the best athletes in the world for their sport.

5. Here is a link to my thoughts a few weeks ago on “The Unique Nature of the Business of Hockey” that appeared in the Huffington Post.

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