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2004-05 NHL lockout

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The 2004-05 NHL lockout resulted in the cancellation of what would have been the 88th season of the National Hockey League (NHL). It was the first time the Stanley Cup was not awarded since 1919 , and the first time a major professional sports league in North America cancelled a complete season due to a labor dispute. The lockout lasted 310 days starting September 16 , 2004 , the day after the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NHL and the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) that resolved the 1994-95 lockout expired. The negotiating teams reached an agreement on July 13 , 2005 , and the lockout officially ended nine days later on July 22 , 2005 , after both the NHL owners and players ratified the CBA.

The NHL, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman , attempted to convince players to accept a salary structure linking player salaries to league revenues, guaranteeing the clubs what the league called cost certainty . According to an NHL-commissioned report prepared by former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt , prior to 2004-05, NHL clubs spent about 76 percent of their gross revenues on players' salaries – a figure far higher than those in other North American sports – and collectively lost 273 million dollars ($US) during the 2002-03 season .

On July 21 , 2004 , the league presented the NHLPA with six concepts to achieve cost certainty. These concepts are believed to have ranged from a hard , or inflexible, salary cap similar to the one used in the National Football League to a centralized salary negotiation system similar to that used in Major League Soccer . According to Bettman, a luxury tax similar to the one used in Major League Baseball would not have satisfied the league's cost certainty objectives. Most sports commentators saw Bettman's plan as reasonable, but some critics pointed out that a hard salary cap without any revenue sharing was an attempt to gain the support of the big market teams, such as Toronto , Detroit , the New York Rangers , Dallas , and Philadelphia , that did not support Bettman during the 1994-95 lockout.

The NHLPA, under Executive Director Bob Goodenow , disputed the league's financial claims. According to the union , "cost certainty" is little more than a euphemism for a salary cap, which it had vowed never to accept. The union rejected each of the six concepts presented by the NHL, claiming they all contained some form of salary cap. The NHLPA preferred to retain the present " marketplace " system where players individually negotiate contracts with teams, and teams have complete control of how much they want to spend on players. Goodenow's mistrust of the league was supported by a November 2004 Forbes report that estimated the NHL's losses were less than half the amounts claimed by the league.

Although the NHL's numbers were disputed, it was no question that the league was in serious trouble. TV ratings were a distant fourth compared to the NFL, NBA, and MLB, and many NHL teams had low attendance totals in recent seasons. At the same time, commentators feared that irreparable damage would be done to the NHL if a strike or lockout occurred and that was likely since the owners and players were far apart on key issues.