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NHL lockout timeline: Let's remember the whole nightmare

The lockout technically began on Sept. 15, 2012, but the roots of the labor dispute reached back two years. Let's ... re-live it?

Andy Marlin

The 2012 NHL lockout is over. It took 113 days, we lost 628 games to cancellation, it cost the league countless millions of dollars and left us with burning resentment for the business that is our favorite sport. But it's over.

How did we get here? Let's look back at the insanity that was the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

You could say this all began over two years ago, when in August 2010, news broke that the NHLPA had planned on hiring former MLBPA chief Donald Fehr as its executive director.

The union had been without a real leader for over a year after firing Paul Kelly in late August 2009, and with the hiring of Fehr, it was clear that the 2012 CBA fight would be a contentious one. As we wrote at the time:

Many hockey fans fear that Fehr's appointment could lead to another work stoppage, since he'll be in charge of negotiations with the league in 2012 when the two sides must agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

... and, well, yep. That happened.


October 2011

Oct. 13, 2011: With the NBA embroiled in a legal battle of its own that had forced the cancellation of games, Fehr spoke up about the chance that the same could happen in hockey. After all, it was only 11 months until the expiration of the CBA between the owners and players and talks to replace it had yet to begin.

Fehr said at the time that negotiations would likely begin in January or February 2012, and that the NHLPA was using the time to meet with players in preparation for the negotiations. This October quote from Fehr, in hindsight, is pretty hilarious and super frustrating.

And if we start say a month or so after the All-Star Game or a little bit before that, we'll still have nearly half a year before the agreement expires to try to reach an agreement.

Oct. 14: ... and a day later, the first "hockey-related revenue" mention of the NHL labor talks hit the wire. The word "dispute" was in this headline too. Let the fun begin!

January 2012

Jan. 6: Realignment in the NHL felt like a done deal for the 2012-13 season, but welp, nope, one day the NHLPA suddenly said no. You need our consent? Not going to get it.

Many saw this as the true opening salvo in CBA talks -- the NHLPA was exerting its power over the NHL and signaling that under Fehr, it wouldn't be the same weak old group of pushovers it was in the 2004-05 lockout. It's clear this didn't really do much but inconvenience the Winnipeg Jets a bit, though.

Jan. 31: No meetings planned. The league said it was ready, but Fehr was still working on getting the PA's ducks in a row.

"We're ready and we have been ready, but the union has some work to do." -- Gary Bettman

"There is this view that somehow to have a big formal meeting you ... have to have a dozen or two, or six dozen people sitting around a table like the auto workers used to do. That's largely untrue. We'll get to that at the appropriate time." -- Fehr


March 14: Oh, you know that whole CBA thing? Yeah, we're still not really worried about it, and we know there's an offseason to conduct. So just "business as usual," you guys. Pretend it's not happening. Free agency and the draft and all regular offseason business will be just like normal.

Also on March 14: That same day, we saw the first cancellation of the 2012 work stoppage when the league announced that the annual NHL Premiere in Europe would be cut.


May 16: A formality, but the NHL officially told the NHLPA it wished to "terminate or modify" the existing CBA.

May 30: Gary Bettman gave his annual State of the League address before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He was asked about the lockout, and his indignant response is pretty laughable in hindsight.

"I don't understand both the speculation and the degree of negativity that it connotes considering we, meaning the League and the Players' Association, have yet to have a substantive discussion on what we may each be looking for in Collective Bargaining. If somebody is suggesting [a potential lockout], it's either because there's something in the water, people still have the NBA and NFL on the brain, or they're just looking for news on a slow day. It is nothing more than speculation at this point. There can't be any substance to it because there haven't been any substantive conversations."


June 28: With free agency two days away, the NHL set the offseason salary cap at $70.2 million.

June 29: The season ended and bargaining began. 31 players arrived in New York for the first face-to-face bargaining session, and both sides called the meeting "cordial."


July 14: The league's first CBA offer was a radical one. Also, our first "gulp" moment of the labor talks. The league proposed a 57-43 revenue split in the owners' favor and ridiculous changes to contracting rules.

July 31: The NHL sent the NHLPA 76,000 (!) pages of financial documents to help a) justify their initial offer and b) help the union prepare its counter-offer.


Aug. 9: With a little more than a month to go before the expiration of the CBA, Bettman left no doubt that the league would lock out the players if no deal was reached. Fehr had previously said that the "There's no law that says you have to lock out," and this was when the PR edge really began to turn the players' way.

Aug. 14: A full month after the NHL's first proposal, the union responded with a drastically different proposal of its own. Contracting rules would stay the same, 54 percent of HRR would go the players' way as opposed to the 43 percent proposed by the owners and revenue sharing between teams would be greatly expanded.

Aug. 15: The NHL's response was roughly as expected.

"I think there's still a number of issues where we're looking at the world differently."

Aug. 16: Goodbye, Traverse City Prospect Tournament.

Aug. 17: Donald Fehr held a conference call with the media, and man, did he drop the gloves. He talked of unfair revenue splits, implied that the owners and players are not truly partners as had been previously implied, and asserted that the NHL was not a free market, but man, it'd sure be better for everybody if it was. The NHLPA was now officially dug in.

Aug. 22: A little more talking, but no progress. Progress is overrated anyway.

Aug. 23: The first mention of potential paycuts for team employees and news that the sides were still "far apart" on the core economic issues following another day of talks.

Aug. 25: The KHL wants you, Alex Ovechkin.

Aug. 28: A new proposal from the league! The word optimism was used on this day, because we were all silly and naive. Fehr said the union planned on responding to this proposal, which gradually sloped the HRR split to 50-50 in the first three years of the six-year proposal.

Aug. 31: Oh, wait, you were optimistic? lololololololol

"At this point, talks are off," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said at NHL headquarters in Manhattan Friday after a meeting that lasted approximately 90 minutes.


Sept. 4: Alex Ovechkin talks about going overseas ... and staying there forever.

"If they need us, how I say, if they're gonna cut percentage of the contract and years, I don't think lots of guys who signed American deals are gonna come back and play here. It's not reasonable to be here. You have to think of the future, you have to think of your family."

Sept. 5: Ten days before the expiration of the CBA, the NHLPA distributed a document explaining to players their rights -- including the pros and cons of going overseas during the lockout and how injured players could still receive paychecks despite the work stoppage.

Sept. 7: Fine, I guess we can talk again. .... and, "no progress."

Sept. 10: Five days before the start of the lockout, the NHLPA filed legal challenges to prevent it in both Quebec and Alberta. The league called these challenges an "unnecessary distraction."

Sept. 11: The league and union agree! ... on a special waiver period, allowing players on two-way contracts to play in the AHL during the lockout.

Sept. 12: Another offer from the league -- one that was worse than the late August proposal, and one that Bettman said would be "off the table" should it not be accepted before the 15th. The NHLPA, meanwhile, said for the first time that it certainly wouldn't accept any rollback on existing salaries.

Sept.14: The Quebec Labour Board deemed a lockout legal, throwing out the PA's legal challenge.

Sept. 15: The lockout begins.

Sept.17: Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and others announced their plans to play overseas. This would only be the beginning. Mass exodus. Meanwhile, in North America, players planning on staying behind began renting ice time at rinks they typically practiced on with their NHL teams.

Sept. 19: The NHL forced pay cuts on league staff and shortened the work week to four days. That same day, preseason games were cancelled through the end of the month.

Sept. 20: "On the whole, the NHLPA executive is accusing the league of demanding the reduction of salaries with no benefit to the players thereafter."

Sept. 21: Red Wings exec Jim Devellano opened his mouth, and it was pretty funny and pretty revealing. He was later fined $250,000 by the league.

"It's very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle.

Sept. 24: Martin Havlat responded to the Devellano comments.

"I can tell you the players have been called a lot worse by some of the guys on the other side, it's just never been reported publicly. I think it helps that the fans get to hear what we already know, we're not humans in their eyes, we're just pieces of meat that get to eat some grass for awhile."

Sep. 27: Nobody likes the preseason, anyway. CANCELED.

Sept. 28: The sides resume talks and agree ... on player safety issues and drug testing protocol.


Oct. 2: The KHL on ESPN!

Oct. 4: 82 total games are canceled, from the scheduled Oct. 11 opening date through Oct. 24. Don Fehr makes sure everybody knows that the cancellations are "the unilateral choice of the NHL owners."

Oct. 8: More European players, including Ilya Bryzgalov and Henrik Zetterberg, indicate that they could stay in Europe even at the end of the lockout.

Oct. 9: "Winter Classic cancellation fears grow."

Oct.10: The Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled in favor of the NHL, striking down the union's lockout challenge. Meanwhile, "no progress" in CBA talks.

Oct. 15: A month into the lockout, with NHL approval ratings in the basement, and less than a month before the Presidential election in the U.S., news that the NHL had hired a top political strategist to conduct focus groups didn't really go over all that well. It was a fun little distraction, though.

Oct. 16: Finally, some actual movement from the league. The NHL announced a proposal that could save the 82-game NHL season. That season would begin Nov. 2 and the proposal looked good at face value -- a 50/50 split, the "Make Whole" provision on existing contracts and fewer restrictions on contracting rules.

Oct. 18: The NHLPA responded to the league's offer with three proposals of its own. All called for a gradual transition to that 50/50 split, so they were at least on the same terms there. But there were still major questions with the "Make Whole" aspect. After 10 minutes at the table, Bettman and the league laughed off all three PA proposals.

"Today is not a good day," Fehr said.

Oct. 19: A day later, the league canceled games through Nov. 1.

Oct. 22: Ovechkin reiterated that players will stay in Russia if the ultimate deal was bad for players. But whatever, our hearts were already broken. Sergei Kostitsyn never liked North America anyway.

Oct. 23: News leaked that the owners allowed team general managers to speak with players for a brief 48-hour period. The union was not happy about this.

Oct. 24: "The [NHL Players' Association] has chosen not to engage on our proposal or make a proposal of their own," Bettman said. "Unfortunately, it looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality."

Oct. 26: Games officially canceled through Nov. 30, and any hope for an 82-game season gone.


Nov. 2: The Winter Classic will not be a thing in 2013. Canceled.

Nov. 5: "Optimism returns after weekend talks go long"

Nov. 7: ... more meetings ....

Nov. 8: New offers from the NHLPA on revenue sharing and the contentious "make whole" provision.

Nov. 10: "The NHLPA thought they were getting closer to a deal, but apparently the two sides continue to have issues with the 'make whole' portion of the contract. The two sides are approximately $380 million apart, and a deal is not even close."

Nov. 15: Bill Daly said that the NHLPA has "no genuine interest in making a deal."

Nov. 16: Since talking wasn't really getting the two sides any closer to an agreement, Gary Bettman suggested that the two sides should take a two-week break from talking all together. That's what you call "officially out of options."

Nov. 17: ... eh, fine, we'll talk.

Nov. 20: After a few days of meetings, it became clear that the NHL wasn't budging unless the NHLPA made a new proposal of its own on the core economic issues -- namely, the make whole provision. So the union met internally with its eyes set on doing just that.

Nov. 21: According to the NHLPA, the NHLPA made significant movement with the resulting proposal. Despite the union's position that it was just $30 million per year (roughly $1 million per team per year) off the league's position, the NHL rejected the proposal.

... but is the union cracking? Roman Hamrlik gave an interview with a Czech publication, saying that Fehr wasn't taking the wishes of the players into consideration. "We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us."

Nov. 23: The NHL canceled the 2013 All-Star Game. Columbus wept. Nobody else did.

Nov. 24: The "decertification" possibility came up for the first time. Meanwhile, 12,000 fans gathered in Atlantic City for a Hurricane Sandy charity game featuring nearly 30 NHL players. "Fire Bettman" chants rang through the building.

Nov. 26: Government mediators got involved. But not before Guy Serota, one of those mediators, was run off because he had a weird Twitter account. He tweeted at Sarah Silverman a lot, and #assmode.

We'll always have assmode.

Nov. 28: Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs officially became Public Enemy No. 1 after a report that he was bullying around fellow members of the Board of Governors.

Nov. 29: "After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time."


Dec. 4: In an attempt to change the tune of talks, both Fehr and Bettman took a step back. 18 players and six owners met behind closed doors without their leadership in an attempt to get some real dialogue going around the remaining issues.

Dec. 5: The sides met deep into the night, and the only news was a podium. We had a gallery of podium photos. The lockout was really fun.

Dec. 6: The NHL had made a proposal the day prior, and the NHLPA responded in kind late the following day. When Fehr stepped to the lecturn, it seemed as though a deal was close. Very close.

But then, minutes after he stopped talking, still in the same room as the media, he got a voicemail. The voicemail was from the NHL, who said that their counter proposal was not accepted and talks were off. The NHL's offer was off the table. Owners left New York City. Face, meet palm.

How did NHL lockout talks suddenly fall off a cliff on Thursday?

One side thought it was still a negotiation, while the other side felt that their offer was "take it or leave it."

Dec.10: Games canceled through the end of the month.

Dec. 12: Federal mediators tried their hand again. No luck.

Dec. 14: The President said you better get this together, guys. Meanwhile, the league was busy filing a lawsuit against the union, saying that its threat to dissolve the union was proof it was bargaining in bad faith. The league also tried to get a court to say definitively that the lockout was legal. The NHLPA called it all BS.

Dec. 20: Games canceled through Jan. 14, making the drop-dead date to save the season pretty clear. No deal by mid-January, no season.

Dec. 21: A full vote of the NHLPA granted its executive board the authority to file a disclaimer of interest, a move that would've dissolved the union and could've led to antitrust lawsuits against the league. But it only had that authority until Jan. 2.

Dec. 28: "The NHL has made another CBA offer, making positive movement on all previous positions. Could it lead to the end of the lockout?"

January 2013

Jan. 2: With the union's deadline to dissolve the union looming, but with progress being made in talks thanks to back-and-forth offers, the process was tense. The PA ultimately decided to let the disclaimer threat pass as talks carried into the next day.

Jan. 3: Progress was abruptly halted. The NHLPA felt that without the disclaimer threat on the table, the NHL's tone had changed, so it reconvened its players for another vote. It would take 48 hours, but it seemed inevitable to pass, and despite its claims, it was pretty evident that the owners were uncomfortable with the looming threat.

Jan. 4: Mediators returned, and they were doing yeoman's work. Scot Beckenbaugh shuttled between league offices in New York and an NHLPA hotel suite down the street for nearly 12 hours, and after Thursday's little blowup, progress was again being made.

Jan. 5: Another marathon day of negotiations brokered by Beckenbaugh led to a face-to-face meeting around lunch time. Talks continued through the afternoon ... and then through the evening ... and then into the next day without much detail leaking to the outside world.

Jan. 6: Well after 4 a.m. ET, Bettman and Fehr met with the press. The lockout was over. A tentative deal had been reached. Hallelujah!