NHL work stoppage seems less likely after owners decline CBA option

Aug 30 2019, 4:48 pm

Hockey fans got some good news today.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league will not be exercising its option to reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the 2020-21 season.

It’s step one of a two-step process to avoid another work stoppage.

The NHLPA has until September 15 to decide what they want to do. If they also decide to decline their option, it will mean that the current CBA will remain in effect until the end of the 2021-22 season.

Should players reopen the CBA, it opens the possibility of a lockout or strike delaying the start of the 2020-21 season.

“Based on the current state of the game and the business of the game, the NHL believes it is essential to continue building upon the momentum we have created with our Players and, therefore, will not exercise its option to reopen the CBA,” Bettman said in a league-released statement. “Rather, we are prepared to have the current CBA remain in effect for its full term – three more seasons through the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.

“It is our hope that a continued, sustained period of labor peace will enable us to further grow the game and benefit all constituent groups: NHL Players, Clubs, our business partners and, most important, our fans.”

“In any CBA, the parties can always identify issues they are unhappy with and would like to see changed. This is certainly true from the League’s standpoint. However, our analysis makes clear that the benefits of continuing to operate under the terms of the current CBA – while working with the Players’ Association to address our respective concerns – far outweigh the disruptive consequences of terminating it following the upcoming season.”

While the players aren’t happy with everything in the current CBA – escrow and Olympic participation are two contentious issues – do they really want to go toe-to-toe with the owners again?

Regardless of what the NHLPA decides, the relationship between owners and players appears to be significantly better than prior to the last labour dispute that delayed the start of the 2012-13 season, resulting in teams playing a shortened 48-game schedule that began in January.

An owners lockout wiped out an entire season in 2004-05. Work stoppages also occurred during the 1991-92 season (players strike), and three years later in 1994-95 (owners lockout).