NHL: Playoffs now, lockout later?

April 12, 2012

Download Story

The Chicago Blackhawks take on the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the NHL playoffs Thursday night. But the two-month marathon fight for Lord Stanley’s Cup may not be the biggest battle in hockey this year: The league’s labor agreement is scheduled to expire on September 15.

Both the NBA and NFL saw delayed seasons thanks to lockouts in their most recent seasons—but the NHL has a hairier history when it comes to nasty negotiations. After all, it was not too long ago when an entire season of slapstick was canceled amidst unresolved differences over a salary cap. But players have a competitive edge this time around—Donald Fehr.

The new executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association spent more than 25 years creating solidarity and opportunities for Major League Baseball players. During his tenure, the average player salary rose by more than 1,000 percent. His success led many, including ESPN.com senior writer and regular Afternoon Shift contributor Lester Munson to dub him as the most powerful man in sports.

Before the Blackhawks and league parties waged their respective battles, Munson and Afternoon Shift host Steve Edwards assessed the state of the NHL with Grantland’s Katie Baker, the woman behind the site’s popular Coldhearted hockey column.