With the looming NHL lockout, the owners already presented a hardline proposal for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement to the players. However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his owners’ biggest tool may be threatening to close down for good the team they control. As the much too long Phoenix Coyotes saga drags on, the owners could remove the team from the field of 30 in the U.S. and Canada and cut 23 player jobs.
The loss of jobs may be a motivating factor to a union trying to get the most for all of its players. The players feel that the 2004-2005 lockout concessions should be enough for the owners. The owners are asking for a rollback of the salary cap that they swore would fix the revenue problems of the league. The players feel that another rollback would occur again soon when small market teams overspend. The solution they see to this problem is a better revenue sharing system.
The owners may believe that contracting the Coyotes would solve the league’s biggest problems, resolving the collective bargaining agreement and finally deciding what to do with the Phoenix Coyotes. The players would not want to lose their jobs, even temporarily. Additionally, the owners could just add a team in another city in a couple of years and collect expansion rights fees. Seattle, Kansas City and several Canadian markets are dying to have a team.
In the end, it is hard to say if the owners would lose credibility if they decide to shut down a franchise. However, the very notion that two lockouts could happen in the sport less than ten years apart indicates that the people with the money do not care about the welfare of the game. If Phoenix is the ace in the hole for the NHL, will the players bite or howl at the proposal? Is Phoenix just a causality in an NHL season that could be lost in the desert?