Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers are coming off a division winning season and have real momentum for the future of a franchise that has been an also-ran in recent years. But, that enthusiasm may be gone before it starts thanks to a labor fight in the NHL.
Just 48 hours remain before another potentially crippling lockout is set to be enforced by NHL owners. NHL players and owners have huddled separately to discuss how to handle what has essentially become inevitable.
The NHL and the NHL Players Association swapped proposals that each side hoped would help generate a new collective bargaining agreement. The sides have met internally and have indicated that a deal is nowhere close to being agreed upon.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman previously vowed to lock the players out on Saturday at midnight if a deal isn’t agreed to before then. Bettman said he has received unanimous support from the NHL Board of Governors to shut down the sport for the second time in eight years.
The last time the NHL shutdown, the entire 2004-2005 season was lost. It arguably took the NHL from being a premier sport in the United States to being on the second-tier. The NHL has struggled since the last lockout to regain the full support it had prior to 2004-2005.
The players have remained steadfast in their desire to not go through what happened in 04-05. The lockout ended that year by player accepting a hard salary cap and a 24 percent rollback in salaries.
Currently, players receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenue and owners want to bring that down to roughly 47 percent. The owners originally offered just 43 percent of hockey-related revenue. The players offered a deal that sought a guarantee of the $1.8 billion.
“The face is, we believe that 57 percent of HRR is too much,” Bettman said. “Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary and wages than what we’re proposing to do to make a deal that we think we need to make.”
When the players are locked out, it will be the third work stoppage under Bettman. A 1994-95 lockout ended after 103 days and the cancellation of 468 games. The 2004-05 lockout ended 301 days after it began and a month after the league would have typically awarded the Stanley Cup.
Under the expiring deal, revenue has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion. Players are concerned that management hasn’t addressed the leagues problems by re-examining the teams’ revenue sharing formula.
After making several large concessions in the 2005 deal, the players don’t believe they should have to make more this time after a period of record financial growth.
The arguments between the two sides are almost exactly like the NBA lockout that cost the league a few months of the regular season last year. NBA owners and players eventually came to a near 50-50 split of basketball-related revenue.
“We believe that what we proposed is in the right direction,” Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “If you look at both, they’re definitely different, but if you have a non-biased opinion, you look at the facts. I think our mindset and the direction we’re going is one that seems like it’s a little bit more fair for both sides.”
Bettman and the owners don’t see the players deal as being bad for the players and don’t believe it’s an issue of being fair.
“The thought was somehow they got slammed in the negotiations last time. They didn’t,” Bettman said. “We made at the time what we thought was a fair deal. It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been.”
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