When I go to a hockey game and my team loses, I can tell myself, “Well, at least the players showed up.” Throughout the history of the NHL, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, since the league debuted in 1917, it’s suffered four major strikes.
On April 1, 1992, the NHL Players’ Association, in a 560 to 4 vote, turned down the bargaining agreement that the team owners put forward. This vote was no April Fool’s prank. Among other things, the athletes wanted more money from trading cards, posters and toothbrushes with their faces on them. Maybe not toothbrushes.
The strike ended on April 10 after a negotiator got the two sides to come to terms. Altogether, 30 games were postponed that year.
The 1992 accord had a two-year duration. When it came time to renegotiate in 1994, the two groups were again at odds. A point of contention was that the league wanted to limit the salaries of star players. Franchises that violated those limits would be “taxed.” Those funds would go to less powerful teams. The players said no and went on strike.
This lockout lasted longer — 104 days. When it ended on January 11, 468 games had been cancelled. In the end, salaries were only capped for rookies.
Not one NHL game was played this year. I took a lot of long walks in the woods.
The strike began on September 16, weeks before the season would’ve started. Salary caps were again the primary subject of debate. The team owners really wanted them, and the Players’ Association really didn’t.
The season was officially cancelled on February 16. In April, the Players’ Association agreed to the idea of a cap. Even so, the final numbers weren’t worked out until July. From that point on, NHL salary caps would be determined by how much income the league made each year.
The walkout began on September 15, and it was fought over several questions. Two of them were especially thorny. First, what should the maximum length of a player’s contract be? The parties would agree to seven or eight years. Second, how should the teams and players divide revenue? The ultimate answer was simple: in half.
By January, the players were back in uniform.
Just like my kids, hockey team owners and players could start squabbling again at any time. As a fan, how do I deal with the threat of a future strike? When I was little, my parents told me to treat every day as a gift. I look at NHL games the same way!
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