NHL player lockout leaves league in a mess

BY IAN PALMER, Feedcrossing.com syndication

Like almost all American professional sports leagues, the National Hockey League may experience a player lockout, putting this season in jeopardy. Photo by: jpellgen / Flickr

The NHL’s in a mess right now due to the player lockout. Players are jumping ship with many of them signing on with European teams to make sure they get a steady paycheck while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Union rep Donald Fehr try to bang out a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The old one expired on Sept. 15 and as soon as it did Bettman and the owners locked the players out.

The league announced on Sept. 19 that all exhibition games until the end of September have been officially cancelled. This represents 61 games in total. Training camps were supposed to start up on Fri. Sept. 21, but this won’t be happening and there are still 46 exhibition contests scheduled for October, with the league’s opening night pencilled in for Oct. 11. The October exhibition games, which were to run until Oct. 7, haven’t been officially cancelled as of yet, but unless an agreement’s made soon they’ll be the next to go.

One rumor circulating around is the use of replacement players if the lockout continues into the New Year. The league has previously lost a whole season and a half a season in previous labor disputes and this time it might try something drastic to keep itself in the public eye by using replacements for the NHL stars as they earn their money in Europe.

It’s been reported that if a deal isn’t struck by the middle of January, then the league would consider bringing in non-union players. This is a decision the owners would have to make and it’s purely legal. There are definitely enough players that fit the bill, but it’s doubtful that they’d want to be seen as “scabs” by their fellow professional athletes.

The teams could simply hire free agents and junior players and those who are playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) and on reserve lists. It would be seen as a threat to the NHLPA and a union breaking move. The NFL did it back in 1987 when replacement players were brought in for several weeks. This prompted the NFL and players’ union to come to an agreement shortly after and regular players soon returned to their teams.

So far, several top NHL stars have hightailed it to Europe and it’s hard to keep track of them because they’re signing with teams at a regular pace. These include many European and Russian-born players such as Jaromir Jagr of the Dallas Stars, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Toronto Maple LeafsNikolai Kulemin. It’s even been rumoured that Penguins’ star Sidney Crosby may even follow suit.

Most of these players have signed with the Russian KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), which has 26 clubs spread out across its nation. There’s also been talk about players setting up charity games and a Russia vs Canada series has even been mentioned. This would be interesting to hockey fans as the original Russia-vs Canada Summit Series took place exactly 40 years ago.

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