In an attempt to possibly bury or drown out negative press on the night of an Eastern Conference final Game 2, the NHL has thrown the first dagger in what appears to be a long summer of labor negotiations.
On Wednesday, the NHL officially notified the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) in writing that it would like to terminate the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Had either side not notified one another of a desire to terminate the current contract within 120 days of the Sept. 15, 2012 expiration date, the deal would have rolled over into another season.
The NHLPA could have also provided the league with notice, but chose not to do so, apparently ready to accept the status quo.
"As you know, this is no surprise," NHLPA leader Donald Fehr said in an email to players and agents on Wednesday, according to Sports Business Daily.
No matter how big or small the changes, the league will be operating under a new CBA whenever the puck drops on a new season.
The two sides were supposed to begin informal negotiations during January's All-Star break but have yet to do so. The NHL has claimed, through commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, that they are ready to begin negotiations at any time.
Clearly, the NHL's owners would like to see more financial concessions from players, who currently earn 57 percent of the league's revenue. The NFL and NBA both rolled their players back to somewhere near 50 percent with their respective lockouts last year. The NFL started their season on-time; the NBA shortened their schedule.
The NHL is set to surpass $3 billion in revenue for the first time this season. Though that is just a fraction of what the other three major sports leagues earn per season, it would be the league's 7th straight season of record revenue.
In 2004-05, the NHL locked out players for an entire year, rolled back salaries 24 percent and instituted a hard salary cap. That cap has risen from $39 million in 2005-06 to $64.1 million in 2011-12.
Even this season, major market teams like the Flyers are still not spending as much on player salaries as they were in the uncapped, pre-lockout seasons in the early 2000's.
While it is no surprise, the NHL fired the first shots on Wednesday of what appears to be a long and dangerous battle – even before this playoff season has yet to conclude. Neither side can afford to lose another season. But there's no telling when the last shot will be fired.