By: Stephen and Sylvia Stables

How to End the NHL Lockout and build a better League

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If you’re an avid Hockey fan like me, you are probably very frustrated at the current lockout in the NHL. Based on what we hear and read it seems both sides are unreasonable in their bargaining positions and they are not able to even agree on a round or rectangle table to sit at.

It is a sad day when fans start to propose what will end the lockout, however here is my shot and solution and how I believe the NHL and the CBA should and may look like in the coming years.

First I think everyone can see and agree that a 50/50 split of revenue is going to happen and it does make sense. I also foresee some team movement and a big European expansion in order to continue to drive revenue for the league and the players.

The current hurdle with a 50/50 split of revenues resides with the almost 60% of players currently with contracts and how you possibly reduce the salaries by 7% without a rollback or forcing the unsigned players to swollow the entire reduction.

I suspect what we will see is an allowance of contract buyouts. When a CBA is agreed too, I believe teams will be given 2 opportunities to “buyout” current contracts, once prior to this current season and once before the start of next season. These are the parameters in which you will be able to buyout a contract.

1. Each Team may “Buyout” a maximum of 3 contracts over the 2 buyout periods.

2. Player contracts must have 2 years or more remaining on their deals.

3. A buyout would be paid out at 2/3rd of the remaining contract which would not count against the cap.

4. All buyouts are conditional on the player being able to sign a subsequent contract with another club for no more or less than the 1/3rd of the non paid portion of the previous contract, thus making the player whole.

This structure guarantees the current contracts and will provide an avenue to allow teams to stay within the cap. It would allow for some of the richer teams to trade for effective cap space...i.e., a team effectively could trade a player with a large contract along with draft picks to a team that would exercise a buyout and allow the player to sign back with his original team.

I believe this is about the only way to honour current contracts, meet the new cap ceiling and floors, provide cap room for unsigned players and create some competitive juggling among rich and poor teams.

All the other CBA issues I believe can be easily solved...!

The League and the players will always be looking for additional revenue and given they already have some struggling franchises, it is clear North America is over saturated with teams and they have some soft markets. Europe is the logical expansion target. I believe expansion is on the horizon and the NHL will be in Europe soon...

Here is the basis of my prediction...I often wondered why the NHL did not create and market an "Original 6" division. It would be unique to any other league and a huge draw for the true hockey fans.

A Creation of a Division only League is coming. 6 Teams in each Division. The emphasis on creating Divisional Rivalries again with a balanced schedule. This would create 5 strong divisions in North America and allow for a 6 Team European expansion. Here is what I see the League looking like in the near future

Original 6
West coast
New York
Los Angeles
St Louis
San Jose

Here is a breakdown of the games...80 Games Total. 1 Game each Home and Away with every team in the league. And 1 additional Divisional Home and Away games (therefore you would play 4 games against every team in your division, just 2 against all other teams).

You will notice I have Minnesota included in the Canadian division. Going forward I believe ultimately phoenix or a Florida team will be moved to a Canadian city. If that happens you would just move Minnesota to the division who lost the team as they are fairly neutral location.

The Playoff format would be very similar to the current format, without conferences. The top 16 teams would qualify for the playoffs. The Divisional Winners would be seeded in a Home Ice position 1 through 8, and the remaining teams seeded by points.

I look at this format and get excited as a hockey fan...strong divisional rivalries, a larger reward to win your division or finish higher in the standings and play a lower seeded team, a balanced schedule where everyone gets to see every other team and the players every year.

Now if only they could come to an agreement we could get back to watching hockey and perhaps the Leafs vs. Sparta Prague, if you like my blog please share it and spread it around and hopefully someone in the NHL will take notice. Best Regards, Stephen

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