NHL Players Approve Agreement as Hockey Season Prepares to StartMichael Buteau and Bob Bensch
The National Hockey League’s 700-player union approved a new collective bargaining agreement, clearing the way for a lockout-shortened season to begin.
While the vote ratifies the 10-year agreement with the owners, a written memorandum of understanding must be completed before the deal becomes final, the NHL Players’ Association said in a statement on its website.
The two will continue to work on the memorandum, the union said. Once it’s signed by both sides, training camps can open and the schedule for the season will be released, the NHL said on its website.
The players approved the agreement three days after the NHL’s Board of Governors voted in favor of the pact during a Jan. 9 meeting in New York.
The world’s top professional hockey league and its players’ union agreed on the contract’s framework Jan. 6, ending the shutdown that began Sept. 16 and forced the cancellation of 625 games, or 51 percent of the original schedule with each team playing 82 games.
The lockout also forced the cancellation of this year’s outdoor Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day and the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.
The NHL, which had $3.3 billion in revenue last season, gave up about $1 billion to get the 10-year deal that reduced the players’ share of the earnings to 50 percent, the New York Times reported, without saying where it got the information.
The work stoppage was the second time in the last seven seasons that owners shut the league down following the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement.
The previous lockout resulted in the loss of the 2004-05 season, the only time a complete schedule of one of North America’s four major pro sports leagues was wiped out in a labor dispute. It also was the first year since 1919 that the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded.
In the 1994-95 season, a lockout ended Jan. 11 and a 48-game schedule began on Jan. 20.
The newest dispute was focused on how players and owners would split revenue that rose 50 percent by last season from $2.2 billion in 2003-04. Under the previous agreement, players received 57 percent, or $1.9 billion, of league revenue.
The negotiations also involved length of player contracts and funding of the union’s pension plan.
The collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years, the Associated Press said.
Before the start of the 2011-12 season, the average NHL player salary was $2.4 million, up from about $1.5 million at the start of the 2005-06 season.
In comparison, National Basketball Association players made an average of $5.15 million, the highest among North America’s four major sports leagues, for 2011-12. The average salary for a National Football League player was $1.9 million, the lowest of the four leagues, with Major League Baseball’s $3.3 million average salary ranking second behind the NBA.