Alexander Ovechkin and other NHL stars are signing up to play abroad as the NHL lockout continues, with no end in sight. The lockout is the league's second in eight years, as owners and players like Alexander Ovechkin argue over how to share $3.3 billion in revenue.
The NHL lockout is well into its fourth day, and it doesn’t look like players will be suiting up any time soon. Not in the NHL, at least.
In a troubling sign for the upcoming hockey season, several players are already signing deals to play elsewhere, including the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin signed a deal to play for the KHL's Dynamo Moscow, his old team. Other stars, including Evgeny Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk, have also headed back east.
The deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey Leagues and the NHL Players’ Association passed at midnight Saturday morning, forcing the National Hockey League into a work stoppage just as training camp was set to begin.
“Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams,” read an NHL message to fans, posted on the league’s website Sunday. “This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible.”
This is the league’s second lockout in eight years. The last one resulted in the loss of the entire 2004-2005 season as owners and players argued over the institution of a salary cap and a restructuring of player salaries. There’s still time before that happens this time around – the regular season isn’t slated to start until Oct. 11, with players’ paychecks due around the same time.
“It’s not looking like we’ll start on time, but if things get pushed back a bit we’ll still have a full season,” Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby said Thursday, from a press conference at the NHLPA player meetings in New York. “We don’t want a lockout. We want to play.”
Crosby and other NFL stars appeared in an NHLPA video posted on YouTube, talking about the importance of fans to the game and emphasizing that they wanted the issue resolved. The video ended with a pointed message: “This is an NHL owners’ lockout.”
Many of the issues at the forefront of the ’04 lockout are at play again in 2012. Chief among them is how to split a $3.3 billion annual revenue pot among players and the NHL’s 30 teams. The league wants players to have a smaller share – currently, salaries account for about $1.8 billion, or 57 percent, and the NHL reportedly wants that to come down somewhere closer to 50 percent. The players’ union, meanwhile, wants to ensure that they are guaranteed to have at least $1.8 billion for salaries going forward, as revenues grow.
Part of the players’ argument is that they made concessions during the last CBA, when a salary cap and a shrinking portion of player revenue pie were introduced as a means to help smaller market teams become more competitive (the same argument, incidentally, was used by NBA owners during that league’s lockout earlier this year).