SUN Hockey Pool

Grim resignation by fans as NHL lockout deadline passes

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman (R) and deputy commissioner Bill Daly meet media...

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman (R) and deputy commissioner Bill Daly meet media following the NHL's Board of Governors meeting in Montreal. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:24 AM ET

NEW YORK - A handful of protesting fans stood in loose line in front of the NHL offices Saturday.

“Lock out the players, lock out the fans,” yelled one, wearing a New York Rangers sweater and holding aloft a sign that said the same thing.

“Greedy owners killing NHL,” said another sign.

It wasn’t much of a protest.

At one point, there were more members of the media than protesters, which is to say maybe more than a dozen, and the meagre turnout seemed to speak to the grim resignation just about everybody feels as the clock ticked down to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and the start of the lockout at midnight Saturday night.

No formal last-minute bargaining was planned Saturday to avert the third lockout in the NHL in 18 years though NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, the number two man at the National Hockey League Players Association, did meet for lunch Saturday.

As the day unfolded, however, both sides said they did not expect there to be further bargaining or any announcements as the clock ticked down.

“We spoke today and determined that there was no point in convening a formal bargaining session in light of the fact that neither side is in a position to move off of its last proposal,” Daly told NHL.com. “I’m sure we will keep in touch in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate. We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected.”

Said Steven Fehr in a statement from the NHLPA: “Today we suggested that the parties meet in advance of the owners’ self-imposed deadline of midnight tonight. Don Fehr, myself and several players on the Negotiating Committee were in the city and prepared to meet. The NHL said it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting. There have been and continue to be private, informal discussions between representatives of both sides.”

A lockout, for practical purposes, is more a symbolic development at this point in what seems to be never-ending squabbling between the league and its players.

While the expiration of the current deal and the implementation of the lockout means players would be free to pursue other opportunities, like playing in Europe (agent Allan Walsh tweeted some of his clients could sign Sunday morning), the next really significant date comes Friday when training camps are supposed to open with players reporting for medicals.

That’s when it will really feel like we’re missing something, though you could make an argument we’re not missing much when you think about the first days of training camp (scrimmages, meaningless fights) and then exhibition games at regular-season prices.

Unfortunately for NHL employees like staffers at the NHL headquarters and the on-ice officials, there inevitably will be layoffs for the former if this lockout drags on and no pay for the latter.

It was expected Saturday night’s expiration of the CBA would pass quietly with no acknowledgement from either side. As NHL commissioner Gary Bettman pointed out in his media conference Thursday, the league made it clear to the NHLPA going back to November the players would be locked out at midnight barring a new agreement being reached, so this is not a dramatic development.

In the meantime, there is still an opportunity for the two sides to negotiate and see if they can find a way to bridge both the monetary and philosophical gap which exists between the two sides when it comes to how to share the $3.3 billion revenue pie.

How far apart are the NHL and its players?

Monetarily, if you consider the next CBA could last for five years, the difference in the respective proposals leaves the two sides about $1 billion apart.

Philosophically?

When a decision was handed down by the Quebec Labour Relations Board on the players’ request to have the lockout ruled illegal on behalf of 16 members of the Montreal Canadiens Friday night (the decision was basically deferred), reporters received emails from both sides proclaiming victory.

These guys can’t agree on anything.

Here is a look at the NHL lockout by the numbers:

3 The number of times the NHL has locked out its players since Gary Bettman has been commissioner.

1,230 The number of games missed when the NHL cancelled the 2004-05 season.

468 The number of games missed when the NHL locked out its players in the 1994-95 season.

57 The percentage of hockey-related revenue (HRR) players are entitled to under expiring CBA.

49 The percentage of HRR the league is offering players in first year of new CBA (dropping to 47 percent by the end of a six-year agreement).

54.3 The percentage of HRR the NHLPA has said it will take in the first year of a new agreement (dropping to about 52 percent by the end of a five-year deal).

1.873 The total, in billions, the NHL paid its players last season.

2.45 The average salary, in millions, for NHL players last season.

1 The number of NHL players, according to ESPN, who have been part of all four work stoppages since 1992 (there was a players’ strike for 10 games in 1992). That would be Jaromir Jagr.

49 The low end, as a percentage of revenues, NBA players agreed to accept in their new CBA. It will range up to 51 percent.

47 The low end, as a percentage of revenues, NFL players agreed to accept in their new CBA. It will range up to almost 49 percent.

0 The number of NHL fans who can understand why the two sides can’t figure out how to divide up $3.3 billion.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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