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NHL stoppage doesn't look to be a long one

| Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, 10:58 p.m.
NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners, in New York. The NHL locked out its players, becoming the third major sports league to impose a work stoppage in the last 18 months. The action also marks the fourth shutdown for the NHL since 1992, including a year-long dispute that forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season when the league held out for a salary cap. The deal which ended that dispute expired at midnight, and Commissioner Gary Bettman followed through on his longstanding pledge to lock out the players with no new agreement in place. (AP)
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Donald Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, speaks at a news conference in New York September 13, 2012. (Reuters)
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MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watches teams warm up prior to the start of Super Bowl XLIV between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Hockey fans lamenting the latest NHL work stoppage can perhaps take solace in the likelihood that it might not last as long as the one started eight years ago.

That dispute was about economic structure, the implementation of a salary cap. This dispute, if both sides are to be believed, is about plain economics — a divide of revenue that was $3.1 billion last season.

Players had been collecting 57 percent on the last collective bargaining agreement. The last NHL offer called for owners to collect a range from 51-53 percent.

“This is a battle for hockey revenue, and if it's just about that, there shouldn't be a long stoppage,” said Larry Silverman, the Pirates' baseball legal counsel from 2002-11. “Long stoppages occur when there are fundamental structural differences between parties.”

Silverman said that was the case during the 2011 NBA lockout, which cost that league 16 regular-season games per team and featured infighting among the union and owners.

A contrast was the 2011 NFL lockout, which was about a lot of things but came down to a split of North American's sports biggest overall economic pie, said Lynn Lashbrook, president of Portland-based Sports Management Worldwide.

The backdrop of a struggling U.S. economy and “politics” has perhaps influenced the NHL dispute, Lashbrook said.

“Look at the Chicago teachers strike, the (lockout) of NFL referees, and the backdrop of owners, generally, being very strong men,” Lashbrook said. “There is kind of a collision going on now that is more universal than even two years ago. My read is that owners think, ‘Enough's enough.' And employees, or players, think, ‘Yeah, for us, too.' ”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com.

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