The National Hockey League Players’ Assn. said Monday it won’t reopen its collective bargaining agreement with the NHL, paving the way for uninterrupted play and labor peace for the next few years. The league had previously declined to exercise its option to reopen the current agreement, which will remain in effect through the 2021-22 season.
The NHLPA said in a statement that it had advised the league of its decision on Monday, the last day it could have opted out.
“While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season,” Don Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, said in a statement. “We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue.”
If either the league or the NHLPA had exercised its opt-out clause, the collective bargaining agreement would have ended in September 2020. Commissioner Gary Bettman has imposed three lockouts during his tenure: The first cut the 1994-95 season to 48 games per team, the second led to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, and the third again cut the 2012-13 season to 48 games per team.
Bettman announced late last month that the NHL hadn’t found reasons to terminate the collective bargaining agreement. “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 said then.
“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.”
The negotiations leading up to each side’s decision to stay with the status quo have been characterized as cordial, unlike previous collective bargaining talks. Apparently NHL owners — who pay Bettman’s salary — don’t see an issue or issues that are important enough to them or would bring them sufficient financial gain to justify delaying or canceling a season. It’s expected the sides will continue to discuss issues such as players’ participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China and possible adjustments to the escrow system, in which money is withheld from players’ paychecks until each season’s hockey-related revenue is calculated and a 50-50 split between players and owners is ensured.