ST. PAUL, Minn. - NHL Agent Ben Hankinson believes that a National Hockey League lockout is imminent.
"My gut is that (Sept.) 15 will pass and we'll be locked out," he said.
There are plenty of issues to pound out, but in the end it all comes down to money.
Lou Nanne, a former player and general manager in the NHL, so he understands labor disputes from both sides of the aisle.
"I think we're going to miss some hockey", says Nanne. "And we're going to get to a situation where all the parties involved realize that it's something that can be rectified.
If you believe Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL owners, they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year, mainly from the smaller market teams, but enough that it accounts for an overall loss as the team's expenditures continue rise because of players' salaries.
"If you just take the dollars that you take in and what you have to pay out its simple business," explains Nanne. "It's like getting a very simple balance sheet and you can see what's coming in and what's going out and you're going to see very quickly that teams aren't going to make money."
But the NHL's players don't believe the numbers. According to the NHLPA's website the players believe the league has recorded record revenue over the last seven seasons and that in the negotiations of 2004 and 2005 the institution of a salary cap caused players to take a 24 percent pay cut. Now they say enough is enough.
"They are boasting how well the league is doing and how they've grown millions of dollars," says Wild Forward Zach Parise. "Then last time they come and say we need 24 percent off your salary and now they are going to do it again. After a while how much do you want us to cover for their mistakes?"
In the end, what will make the two sides come together is deciding who gets what percentage of the pie of revenues. Currently the players get 57 percent of hockey related revenues. The league wants to cut that to 46 percent.
The NHLPA wants to stay at 57 percent for now, but take less of the revenues brought in over the next three years.
"Both sides are looking for a deal that is fair," says Wild forward Matt Cullen. "But what's fair? Who knows?"
The recent trends in professional sports would dictate that fair means a 50/50 split like the NFL and NBA both adopted in their latest collective bargaining agreements. Now it comes down to who is willing to wait for what they want the longest. Nanne believes that favors the multi-millionaire owners.
"Not only wait it out," says Nanne. "In October or November some of these (owners) that are losing money will lose a lot less because they'll have building events and no expense for a hockey team".
The players are willing to wait because they believe their future depends on it.
"What happens in seven years?" asked Parise. "Are you going to come back and that's another 24 percent? It's got to stop somewhere."
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