The NHL Fans’ Association released a letter Monday morning detailing the NHLFA’s plan to avoid a lockout upon the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players. The letter was sent to National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association executive director Bob Goodenow, as well as various media outlets.
The CBA expires on September 15, one day after the end of the World Cup of Hockey. Many experts are predicting a long lockout as the owners attempt to force the players to accept their offer. Even the most optimistic of those expecting a work stoppage don’t see the season beginning before January 2005.
The NHLFA plan is for the two sides – who have repeatedly stated that they will not give in to the other side’s demands – to begin a Mediation – Arbitration process to decide the next CBA. Their belief is that a third party mediator/arbitrator would create a CBA that is fair to both sides in a faster timeframe than the league and the players union would on their own.
If the mediation process did not result in an agreement, the mediator would become an arbitrator with the power to impose a new agreement before any of the season is lost. The NHLFA offered to select the mediator/arbitrator to ensure that both sides are treated fairly.
Neither the NHL nor the NHLPA have responded to the letter.
The NHLFA was formed in 1998 to give the fans of the National Hockey League a voice in matters such as this. The NHL acknowledges the existance of the NHLFA but will not grant it offical status until it reaches 75000 members. The NHLFA currently has 22267 members. Signing up for membership is free and can be done at NHLFA.com.