The latest work stoppage in the NHL — lasting from September 15, 2012 to January 6, 2013 — was not nearly as destructive as the stoppage less than a decade earlier, which completely wiped out the entire 2004-05 campaign.
But the optics of what stood as the third work stoppage in Gary Bettman’s first 19 years as NHL commissioner were far from encouraging, to say the least — with fans, media and many more now still on high alert for the next potential crisis.
It could come sooner rather than later, unfortunately, as both the league and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) entered September with the option to opt-out of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which would then expire in September 2020. With its expiration, of course, comes the threat of another potential work stoppage ahead of the 2020-21 season.
However, it appears as though at least one side of the table is not interested in opting out of the CBA early — which would otherwise run through the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
On Thursday, Bettman and the league office released a statement, announcing that they will NOT opt out of the current CBA. The league had until September 1 to inform the NHLPA that it was going to move forward with the current bargaining agreement.
Bettman’s statement read:
“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. 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.”
As a whole, this is good news for the league — and a sign that the owners are not looking for much of a fight over the current CBA. However, the NHL is not out of the woods quite yet when it comes to a potential work stoppage.