Tallahassee Journal

Fears about canceled NHL season were never realized

Fears about canceled NHL season were never realized

Ten years ago today, Commissioner Gary Bettman canceled the 2004-05 season, making the NHL the first league to do so because of a labor dispute. The fears followed. The lockout would drag on into another season. Fans would stay away once a settlement was reached. The NHL would lose its place among the major pro sports and become a niche sport.AP NHL LOCKOUT S HKN USA NY

But during the summer of 2005, the league and the NHL Players’ Association agreed to a salary cap, the major dividing issue during negotiations between Bettman and Bob Goodenow, and the 2005-06 season started on time. The first salary cap was $39 million. This season,  it’s $69 million. Depending on the Canadian dollar, it could go up to $71.7 million to $73 million next season. And that’s because fans did return and the league was able to grow its business.

A series of rules changes instituted in 2005 allowed two-line passes, gave us the shootout, four-on-four overtime and eliminated the clutch-and-grab hockey that dragged down the on-ice product. New stars have emerged, the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series were born, the league has gone to three more Olympics, new cities want to join the NHL, and the World Cup of Hockey – the last event in 2004 before the lockout began – is back in 2016 as a happy occasion.

The NHLPA had it rough after the lockout with infighting and constantly changing leadership but is strong again under executive director Donald Fehr. Players’ fears about a salary cap were probably realized because they had to endure another lockout in 2012-13 to lower their share of revenues from 57% to 50% and to create hard-and-fast rules to prevent the back-diving contracts that got around the cap. Plus, players don’t like signing over part of their checks to escrow, but they can reach unrestricted free agency earlier than before 2004. Plus, the NHL and NHLPA worked together to bring back the World Cup.