NHL Lockout Officially Begins As Ownership, Players Far Apart

The NHL lockout became official at 12 am EDT, and though sports commentators and the league itself acknowledged that the stoppage was already set in stone days before.

Any chance of averting the NHL lockout was lost long before the midnight deadline, The Associated Press reported, making this the third work stoppage of a major sports league after similar actions in the NBA and NFL. As 11 pm came, it was clear that there was no desire by either side to resume talks.

“We talked with the union this morning, and in light of the fact that they have nothing new to offer, or any substantive response to our last proposal, there would be nothing gained by convening a bargaining session at this time,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement earlier Saturday. “I’m sure that we will remain in contact in the coming days.”

Daly has been speaking by phone with players’ association special counsel Steve Fehr, brother of NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, but the two could not come together to agree on face-to-face talks.

A central issue in the NHL lockout is how to split $3.3 billion in revenue. The league wants to reduce the players’ share of hockey-related revenue, which is now at 57 percent, but the players union does not want any deal that requires players to take an immediate, absolute further reduction in salary, ESPNNewYork.com noted.

The players have made a show of solidarity, with more than 300 gathered at a hotel in midtown Manhattan for meetings with Donald Fehr this week. Superstar forward Sidney Crosby spoke on behalf of players, expressing frustration at the NHL lockout.

“We’ve shown we’re willing to give, but they’ve got to be willing,” said Crosby, who like many players is considering playing overseas if the NHL lockout is not lifted. “It seems like there’s a pretty hard line there, and they’re not willing to budge.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said he would lock out players when the current collective bargaining agreement expires, and there is now a good chance that training camps as well as the start of the season could be lost.

The current NHL lockout now becomes the league’s fourth work stoppage since 1992. The latest stoppage, in 2004, lasted nearly a year and marked the first time an entire professional sports season has been lost in the United States.