For the NHL and its fans, work stoppages have become far too harsh a reality over the past 30 years. The league has seen three lockouts since 1994, including an entire lost season in 2004-05. As such, the threat of a possible lockout in 2020-2021 has loomed large over the league in the past few years.
However, Monday's labor deadline brought good news for hockey fans, as the NHL Players' Association elected not to reopen the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players. The news comes after NHL owners opted not to terminate the CBA in late August.
The NHLPA announced today that the Executive Board has declined to reopen the CBA with the NHL following the 2019-20 season. The current CBA remains in effect through the 2021-22 season. The NHLPA advised the League of its decision earlier today. pic.twitter.com/IdZZT9HXL7— NHLPA (@NHLPA) September 16, 2019
The current CBA was signed after the last lockout in 2013 and is set to expire in 2023, but that 10-year agreement included an opt-out clause for both sides after eight years. With both parties electing to decline their respective opt-out, the CBA will run its entire 10-year term.
What does it mean for a potential lockout?
In the simplest of language, the NHL will avoid the possibility of a lockout until at least 2023, when a new CBA will need to be signed. Both sides will continue to operate under the current CBA for the next three years, though they can continue discussions to amend and tweak the labor agreement in the meantime.
Where do we go from here?
The two sides have been discussing the future of the current CBA since February. The decision not to terminate is seemingly a good sign that the league's executive ownership and its players are on healthy negotiating terms, or at least "cordial" terms, in the words of NHLPA president Donald Fehr.
"While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. "We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue."
There is reason to believe that more good news could be coming as the two sides continue to talk. It's been reported that the ongoing dialogue between them could lead to a three- or four-year extension that would push the agreement to 2026 or 2027.
However, for that to happen, it's likely that the NHLPA would need to win on some of the concessions that they made during the last CBA negotiation in 2013. Players have raised concerns with the league's current escrow situation and were very loudly opposed to the NHL's decision to prohibit them from participating in the last Olympic Games.