Gary Bettman says NHL won’t reopen current CBA, reducing chances for lockout

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the media during All-Star week on Jan. 25, 2019, in San Jose.
(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday the league will not exercise its option to reopen the current collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players’ Assn., reducing the chance of another work stoppage.

The union has until Sept. 15 to exercise its option to reopen the labor deal. If it chooses not to do so, the agreement would run through the 2021-22 season. If the union decides to exercise its option, the labor agreement would expire on Sept. 15, 2020.

The NHL has locked out players three times, including an especially rancorous dispute that led Bettman to cancel the 2004-05 season. That settlement instituted a hard salary cap for each team and gave players revenue-sharing rights.

After disputes delayed the start of the 1994-95 season and the 2012-13 season, each team played only 48 games plus playoffs because there wasn’t enough time for teams to play a full 82-game schedule.


In a statement released Friday, Bettman said, “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.”

He added, “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 a statement, the players’ union said: “Today the NHL advised the NHLPA that the league will not exercise its early termination right under the CBA. The NHLPA now has the same option. We will continue to discuss this matter with players as our September 15 decision approaches.”

The NHL’s first salary cap, in the 2005-06 season, was set at $39 million per team. The cap for the 2019-20 season will be $81.5 million. Although a few teams have attendance or arena problems, the league overall is enjoying good health and owners don’t see any issues worth fighting over and potentially delaying the season.

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Players have expressed displeasure about the escrow system that takes money out of their paychecks to ensure a 50-50 split of revenue between players and clubs. The money is returned to them after the season if it is determined that they received less than 50% of hockey-related revenue, but escrow can take a big chunk out of their paychecks.

Players also have expressed a desire to again be allowed to represent their homelands in the Winter Olympics. NHL players participated in the 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympic hockey tournaments, but Bettman would not allow them to play in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.