The National Hockey League, rated alongside the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball as one of North America’s Big Four sports is into the second week of the fourth players lockout in 20 years.
Owners are looking to negotiate down the amount of revenue which players take out of the game, a figure which currently runs at around 57%.
Last year the League brought in $3.3 billion (€2.5billion) so the figures being fought over are significant. The feeling is that neither side wants to lose an entire season, and that negotiation will recommence soon.
In 2004, the last lockout season, the League was losing money and owners were determined to see through the introduction of a salary cap. This time around the fear is that fans will turn and both sides will lose. In that year 200 players had signed up to overseas leagues after the first week. This time around the number is only 60, mostly in Swiss and Russian Leagues.
A loose indicator of popular sentiment can be seen in reaction to a video shot by the NHL Players Association stating their case. Over 300,000 have viewed the three minute appeal to the hearts and minds with 1,900 hitting the like button in favour and 1,400 going the other way. Most of the comments are negative and public anger at being deprived of action is likely to embolden the owners to hang tough.
In Europe the idea of player strikes is raised very occasionally but rarely comes to anything. It is ironic that the US, with its much more capitalist sense of itself, that sport is regularly stopped because of industrial action.
Ice Hockey in Ireland remains centred on Belfast where the Stena Line sponsored Giants compete against the top British teams. There are hopes that a new National Ice Arena in Santry will be operational before too long but funding of the dressing rooms and public areas has been difficult to raise and the project is currently in abeyance.