Following the failure to reach a consensus on a new collective bargaining agreement between NHL (National Hockey League) bosses and the players union, all 750 players registered with the NHL have been locked-out as of Sunday 16th September.
For the duration of the lock-out all players are free agents and can play for any team or in any league in the world - many of whom have already jumped ship and moved to leagues across Europe.
This is the third occasion that players have been locked-out in the last seventeen years. In 1995 the season was drastically shortened following a dispute, and a major trophy (Stanley Cup) was not awarded for the only time in its 100 year history.
In 2005 the season in its entirety was cancelled due to a dispute, and subsequent lock-out.
The NHL is a multi-billion dollar industry that stretches across the US and Canada. Last year the league’s total earnings were $3.2 billion, which is up from around $2.2 billion previous year. Despite the huge increase in revenue, the bosses are trying to reduce the percentage of total revenue that is allocated to player’s wages.
Gary Bettman the NHL commissioner has said that,
“the players overall share of the pie is far too high, and the owners deserved a more equitable split”.
The players - whilst accepting that they are very highly paid for their work are unhappy that during a period of such unprecedented prosperity within the sport, they are being told to receive a 10% pay cut, so that the bosses can snaffle a bigger share.
It seems that neither the billionaire club owners nor the millionaire players care too much about what the average working class fan who buys the tickets, the shirts, and who travels around the country supporting their team thinks of the situation.
The dispute has predictably attracted widespread media attention across the US and Canada, with plenty of attention focused on how the fans will suffer. Yet there is no mention of the real victims of the dispute and how it impacts on them.
For as long as the lock-out lasts, the arena workers, the hot dog and burger vendors, the cleaners, the pop-corn sellers, the many buskers who work outside the stadiums, the merchandise vendors, the hotel workers, the bar and restaurant workers who rely on tips earned during match night, and the countless other workers whose jobs depend on the NHL being operational, will not get paid.
There have been suggestions by the NHL bosses that should the dispute continue past the short term, then they will consider bringing in scab players to enable teams to complete their league season. This move would not be for the benefit of the fans, or the workers whose livelihoods are dependent on hockey, it would just enable the NHL to fulfil their bloated TV contracts and to keep the dollars rolling in.
This article first appeared in Freedom Newspaper