For the past year everybody has been looking toward the summer of 2012 as the time when the current CBA was going to be renegotiated. That's when it would run its course and, barring an unforeseen one-year extension, the battle would begin.
Consider Wednesday to be the declaration day.
From Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal
An NHLPA spokesman confirmed the NHL sent notice, as required by CBA, that it wants to change or end deal. Deal expires Sept. 15, 2012— Liz Mullen (@SBJLizMullen) May 16, 2012
The NHL had to give notice 120 days prior to the expiration, so that explains the timing, coming in the middle of the conference finals. But there wasn't much of a choice in this case.
Before you freak out too much and start envisioning another season without hockey, remember this is a formality in the conversation. It's a pretty significant formality, but a formality nonetheless. This is putting into motion what we all have been anticipating, that there will be negotiations for a new CBA because this one is done come Sept. 15.
But just because the current CBA is in effect until mid-September doesn't mean they have to wait that long to start negotiating. If you remember, there was initially talk of negotiations beginning after the All-Star break, but new NHLPA head Don Fehr wasn't ready and so the talks have been pushed back to this summer when the season is done.
Now that we are sure the talks are going to happen, I hate to say it, but I'm pessimistic about these negotiations. While I don't think the entire 2012-13 season is going to be wiped out, I am expecting a last-minute deal to be struck like there was in the NBA. I think the league has things going too well at the moment to risk it with another crippling season-long lockout.