Why Did the NHL Have a Lockout?

The NHL lockout was a work stoppage that lasted for over 100 days and cost the league an entire season. Find out why the NHL had a lockout and what the consequences were.


In 2012, the National Hockey League (NHL) had a lockout. A lockout is when the owners of a company Lockout the employees from working. The NHL lockout lasted for 113 days, from September 15, 2012 until January 6, 2013. During this time, no NHL games were played.

The main reason for the lockout was because the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) could not agree on how to split the revenue from the NHL’s $3.3 billion in annual revenues. The NHL wanted to decrease the players’ share of revenue from 57% to 46%, while the NHLPA wanted to keep it at 57%.

After much negotiation, they finally came to an agreement and the lockout ended. The players’ share of revenue was decreased to 50%, and they also agreed to a salary cap of $64 million per team for the next four years.

The NHL’s History of Lockouts

The NHL has seen its fair share of lockouts, with the most recent one happening in 2012-2013. But why does the NHL have so many lockouts? Let’s take a look at the history of the NHL and its lockouts.


In 1992, the NHL became the first professional sports league in North America to cancel a Stanley Cup playoffs due to a labor dispute. The owners had been demanding a salary cap, while the players wanted to keep the status quo. Ultimately, the season was cut short by 18 games and over $400 million in revenue was lost.


The first NHL lockout occurred during the 1994–95 season. It lasted 103 days, from October 1, 1994, to January 11, 1995, and resulted in the cancellation of 468 games (36.8% of the regular season schedule). Bettman stated that the main issue was “a need for cost certainty on team payrolls”.

In response to increased player salaries (which rose 43% over three seasons), the NHL owners demanded a hard salary cap that would limit each team’s payroll to no more than 50 to 60 percent of league-wide revenues. The NHLPA countered with their own proposal that would have linked player salaries to league revenues but without a hard salary cap.

The impasse led to a work stoppage that cancelled games through January 1995. On January 11, 1995, after numerous failed negotiation sessions, Bettman announced that the rest of the season and the playoffs were officially cancelled.


In 2004–05, the NHL became the first major professional sports league in North America to cancel an entire season because of a labor dispute. On February 16, 2005, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the 2004–05 season—the 91st in league history—would be canceled. He also said that if a new collective bargaining agreement was not reached with the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) by the end of business on September 15, 2005, there would be no 2005–06 season. The lockout lasted 310 days and caused the cancellation of 1,230 regular season games (34 percent of the schedule), as well as all 2005 Stanley Cup playoff games.

The 2012-2013 Lockout

The NHL lockout was a work stoppage that occurred in 2012-2013. The main issue in the dispute was how to split the revenue generated by the league’s US$3.3 billion annual national television contract. The league wanted a 50-50 split, while the players wanted a 60-40 split in their favor.

The Main Issues

The 2012–13 NHL lockout was a labor dispute between the National Hockey League (NHL) and its players’ union, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA). The lockout imposed by the NHL lasted from September 16, 2012, to January 6, 2013.Negotiations to end the lockout began on July 13, 2013.

The main issues dividing the NHL and NHLPA were how to split approximately US$3.3 billion in annual revenue generated by league operations and whether or not to continue using a salary cap system to control player spending.

The NHLPA proposed increasing player salaries by 3% annually over a five-year period without instituting a new salary cap. The NHL’s last offer before talks broke off called for player salaries to be frozen for two years followed by a modest increase of 2% in Year Three and 4% in Years Four and Five of the deal. With both sides far apart on the economic issues, there was little hope that a resolution could be reached before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement on September 15, 2012.

The Aftermath

Although the NHL lockout of 2012-2013 caused immense damage to the league, they were able to recover in the following years. In the first year after the lockout, the NHL generated $4.3 billion in revenue, which was a new league record. They were also able to sellout every arena for every game and had an average attendance of 17,409 people per game, which was 95.4% of the arenas’ capacity. The 2014-2015 season saw even more growth with $4.84 billion in revenue and an average attendance of 17,872 people per game, which was 96.5% of the arenas’ capacity.

It is evident that the NHL made a remarkable recovery after such a devastating event. They were able to do this through strong management, maintaining a loyal fan base, and having successful television agreements. The current Commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, has been credited with much of the league’s success. He has been influential in growing the game of hockey in non-traditional markets and expanding the league globally. The NHL is now broadcasted in over 160 countries and 27 languages, which has helped grow its fan base significantly.

The most important factor in the NHL’s recovery has been its strong relationship with its fans. The fans have remained loyal to the league throughout all of its hardships and have continued to support it through thick and thin. This is evident in their Attendance numbers as well as their Television ratings. In the 2014-2015 season, NBC Sports Group announced that they had their best year ever for ratings and viewership of NHL games. These numbers prove that no matter what happens, the fans will always be there for their favorite sport and teams


As can be seen, there were a variety of reasons why the NHL lockout occurred. However, the main reason was that the owners and the players could not agree on how to divide the revenue from the league. The owners wanted a larger share, while the players wanted to maintain their current share. Ultimately, the lockout lasted for over 100 days and resulted in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.

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