Start of new hockey season doubtful as NHL commissioner imposes lockout

LA Kings Celebration

Roberto (Bear) Guerra

Hockey fans celebrated with the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on June 14, 2012 after the team won the Stanley Cup for the first time in its 45 year history. Now NHL owners have locked out the league's players over a labor dispute, and next month's start of the 2012-13 season is in doubt.

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman has imposed a lockout on the league’s players that could delay next month’s start of the 2012-13 NHL season.

The move came at 9:00PM PDT when the league’s basic agreement with the NHL Players Association ran out with no new deal in place. Negotiations on a new agreement began on June 29, but progress over the summer has been spotty.

The league’s 30 team owners want to reduce the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from now-expired basic agreement’s level of 57 percent.

The owners initially asked for a reduction to 46 percent. Their most recent offer in late August set the players’ share at 51.6 percent in the first year and 50.5 percent in the second.

The NHLPA turned down that proposal and countered with one that calls for more revenue sharing to help teams that are struggling financially. Under the NHLPA proposal, the league would grant teams in need of assistance more picks in the annual amateur player draft.

The owners turned down the players’ proposal.

Should the lockout lead to the cancellation of games, it would be the second time that a labor dispute has interrupted an NHL season while Bettman has been commissioner. He led the league through the 310-day lockout that led to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, the only time a major professional sports league in North America has cancelled an entire season.

The head of the NHLPA is well acquainted with work stoppages. Donald Fehr was general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association during the 1981 players strike. He was the MLBPA executive director in 1994 when the players went on strike again; that season, baseball commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the World Series.

The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are scheduled to open their preseason schedule on September 24 at Staples Center. The Kings open the regular season at Staples Center on October 12 against the New York Rangers.

The Anaheim Ducks also start the regular season on October 12. They host the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center. The Ducks' preseason schedule begins September 25 at Honda Center against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Both teams prepped for a lockout this week by assigning young players to minor league teams.

The Kings sent 15 players to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League on Friday, and then sent three more to Manchester on Saturday.

The Friday group included center Jordan Nolan, who got a few minutes on the ice in every game during the Kings’ Stanley Cup series with New Jersey.

The Anaheim Ducks assigned 22 players to minor league teams Friday where they’ll get playing time while the NHL season is on hold. Most had appeared in only a handful of games for the Ducks last season.

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