NEW YORK – The National Hockey League (NHL) said it would work “around the clock” to reach a new labor deal with players after imposing a league-wide lockout that threatens to wipe out the upcoming season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had warned players the league would lock them out if a new CBA was not place when the current pact expired and the moment fans had dreaded came but without either side making a formal announcement.
The lockout came into effect at 12.01 A.M. EDT (0401) Sunday when the previous seven-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired at midnight Saturday.
The league and the union representing the players had been negotiating for months but were unable to reach a new agreement before the deadline expired, automatically triggering the work stoppage.
The league has not yet cancelled any games but everything remains on hold until a new deal is signed.
The NHL’s official website immediately shut down its player reference section and removed any pictures of players.
Training camps, due to start next week, were likely to be the first casualty, while time was running out for the regular season to begin as scheduled on Oct. 11.
“Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams,” the NHL said in a statement released Sunday morning.
“This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.”
Industrial disputes are not uncommon in North American professional sports and the NHL became the third major sport to impose a lockout in the past 18 months, following the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.
This is the fourth work stoppage for the NHL in the past two decades. The most recent was eight years ago when the entire 2004-05 season was canceled.
With the league currently enjoying massive interest and generating record revenues, the stakes are high for both sides although neither shows signs of buckling on the key economic issues.
The main sticking point is how to divide $3.3 billion in revenue. Under the previous deal, the players received 57 percent and the league 43 but owners wanted a bigger share, arguing that while profits were rising so too were costs.
The NHL initially asked players to lower their share to 43 percent but amended that to a six-year offer that started at 49 percent and dropped to 47 percent.
Players have already begun looking for safe havens to ride out the labor dispute. Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar have signed with Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) side Mettalurg in Russia. — Reuters