Kolzig: NHL needs to avoid 'ugly' lockout

Kolzig: NHL needs to avoid 'ugly' lockout
July 12, 2012, 3:23 pm
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With preliminary labor negotiations continuing this week in New York, former Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig is hoping the NHL and its players are smart enough not to make the same mistakes they made in 2004-05, when the entire season was lost in a labor dispute.

Nobody wants to see a lockout, especially with the momentum the NHL has gained over the last few years, Kolzig said during the Capitals development camp. But you understand why and its the not-so-fun part of sports.

I suspect both sides understand the NHL has grown so much the last few years and they dont want to slow any momentum down or give any kind of negative outlook toward the NHL. So theyll try their hardest to get it done.

Eight years ago, Kolzig said NHL Players made the tragic mistake of thinking they could bully the leagues 30 owners into sharing more of the leagues revenue and agreeing to a CBA without a salary cap. It was a gross miscalculation that cost players millions of dollars in salary.

That was awful, Kolzig recalled. I dont think our union was prepared for the tough stance of the owners. We were waiting to call their bluff and they didnt blink and we didnt really have a Plan B, and as a result we missed the whole season.

At the time of the lockout, Kolzig was at the apex of his earning power, making 6.25 million. He made another 17.34 million over the final four years of his career but pointed out others were not as fortunate.

Its money Ill never make back," he said. "That was the peak of my career and for a lot of other players it was the end of their careers. It was just an ugly situation that I dont think anybody wants to see happen again, no matter what sport it is.

Talks between the NHL Players Association and the NHL began on June 29 and will continue on Friday in New York.

Among the issues being discussed are:

Revenue sharing: The current CBA has 57 percent of the leagues revenues going to the players. The owners are looking to divide that revenue equally at 50 percent each. The owners also must decide how much relief small-market teams should receive from the leagues most profitable teams.

Salary cap floor: The salary cap is here to stay, but owners want to lower the salary cap floor below its current 54.2 million. The Capitals, by the way, are just 655,428 above the cap floor, according to capgeek.com.

Long-term contracts: The owners want to protect themselves from giving contracts that exceed players ability to fulfill them. Case in point: Chris Pronger is 37 and has five more years and 19.25 million remaining on his deal. They also would like to see some kind of amnesty from overpriced contracts for underperforming players who are hidden in the minors for the length of their deals, such as Wade Redden.

Olympic participation: Most of the players want it, but Gary Bettman and many team owners do not, at least not when the Winter Games are being staged in Russia, as they are in 2014. Owners do not see the benefits of shutting down the league for two-plus weeks for TV coverage that is eight hours behind while running the risk of star players getting injured.

Kolzig seems less than certain an agreement will be made before the current deal expires on Sept. 15, which could mean condensed training camps and preseason schedules and a delayed start to the 2012-13 season.

But hes be surprised to see the same carnage as in 2004-05.

If for whatever reason it doesnt get done by September 15, Id assume it would get done in a short amount of time after that, Kolzig said. I dont think youre going to see what happened in 2004.

It wont be as biased as it was back in 2004. Both sides really are going to try to hammer something out.