NHL Lockout 2012: Should the Players Dump Their Union?

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Part of the conventional wisdom around this NHL Lockout is that eventually the owners and players will split Hockey Related Revenue somewhere around the 50/50 mark, based on comparison to the recent CBA's struck by the NFL and NBA. But does that really have to be the case? Are there other world-class sports leagues out there which provide a different model on how to proceed?

For more on this, I'll yield the floor to Senator Blutarsky:

With former MLBPA chief Don Fehr at the helm, the NHLPA has the best leadership it has ever had, by a wide margin. Yet with the NHL seeking to further ratchet down the players' share of revenues, one must concede that at some point it cases to be worth maintaining the union.

...

To see how a non-unionized labor market works in a major professional sports league, one need look no further than the English Premier League.

With total 2010-2011 revenues (the most recent season for which figures are available) of 2.3 billion Pounds (about $3.7 billion), the EPL is the world's most lucrative soccer league.

...
And with no union, players claimed a full 70% of total EPL revenues. That's a lot better than the 57% the NHL players settled for in their last CBA, to say nothing of the sub-50% level the NHL owners are reportedly seeking in a new agreement. Indeed, it rivals the 75% of revenues the NHL owners dubiously claimed to be paying out in salaries prior to the last NHL lockout.

Hmm... now here's an interesting notion. I'm not very familiar with how the EPL operates, but I suspect a major difference between that and North American pro sports leagues is that of competition. Just across the English Channel are a number of other top-notch European leagues which can also attract top talent, whereas Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA and NHL have no significant competition short of crossing the Atlantic.

Ditching the union may be an extreme option, but these may well be extreme times. Considering the aggressive stance that the NHL has taken so far with their CBA offers, and the views espoused today by Detroit Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano, the stakes involved couldn't get much higher:

The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there. That's the way its always been and that the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren't going to let a union push them around. It's not going to happen.

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Let the players take 43% and let the owners take 57%. Just reverse it from where it is now and let the owners run the rest of their business and manage their expenses. Now keep in mind this time around it's not just revenue sharing that is the issue. There are many, many more components at play here, from entry level contracts, years of service, insurance, etc. I mean a whole bucket load of disputes that are just as important for the owners to need to get a fair deal done."

"Yes, they are billionaires. Good on them, they deserve it, but they also make their employees millionaires. Not a bad trade off for a guy like Lucic getting what, 6 million dollars a year? I mean good on him too, but he should be grateful.

This kind of thinking opens up a huge range of possibilities, and there would presumably be many, many obstacles to cross to make such a thing happen.

But what if the NHLPA disbanded and the players came to the league via an open market?

For more on the genesis of this idea, head over to Senator Blutarksy's blog.

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