NHL Lockouts and Strikes: A History

A brief look at NHL lockouts and strikes and how they were resolved.

The Hamilton Tigers Players' Strike of 1925

On the final day of the 1924-25 regular season, Hamilton players told management they would not dress for the Stanley Cup Playoffs unless each man received a cash bonus of $200.

Led by stars Billy Burch and Shorty Green, the Tigers argued that an expanded schedule required them to play more games. They claimed the team had turned a record profit during the season, and had received a share of expansion fees paid by two new franchises.

The NHL acted swiftly, suspending the players and defaulting the Tigers' playoff games. The franchise was sold the following summer, and players involved in the strike were not allowed back on the ice until they submitted a written apology to the NHL president.

Read the complete story of the 1925 Hamilton Tigers strike.

The 1992 NHL Players' Strike

It was the first league-wide work stoppage in NHL history, and the first significant job action since the formation of the NHL Players' Association in 1967.

The players voted to strike by a count of 560 to 4, and the walkout began on April 1, 1992.

They returned to work April 11, after a deal was struck on a new collective bargaining agreement. The 30 regular season games that had been lost to the strike were rescheduled, allowing the full season and playoffs to be completed.

The players won more control of marketing rights (the use of their pictures on posters, trading cards, and so on), and their share of playoff revenue was increased from $3.2 million to $7.5 million. The regular season was increased from 80 to 84 games to give the owners a revenue boost.

The 1992 strike came one year after Bob Goodenow took over as executive director of the NHLPA. John Ziegler was president of the NHL.

The 1994-95 NHL Lockout

The lockout began on October 1, 1994, and the dispute introduced many arguments that would become familiar to hockey fans in the years to follow.

The owners wanted to establish a "luxury tax" to fund small-market teams and discourage spiraling salaries. Under the proposal, teams would be taxed for exceeding the average NHL payroll, and the money collected would be distributed to the needy franchises.

The players considered this a form of salary cap and opposed it. Instead, the NHLPA suggested the poorer teams could be funded through a straight tax on the 16 wealthiest teams, unrelated to payroll.

There was also disagreement over the age at which players should qualify as unrestricted free agents, the rights of restricted and unrestricted free agents, salary arbitration, the distribution of playoff revenues, rosters sizes, and other issues.

The lockout lasted 104 days, ending on January 11, 1995.

The major concession won by the owners was the rookie salary cap, restricting the earnings of "entry-level" players for their first three years. The league also achieved greater restrictions on free agents and a more favorable process of salary arbitration.

But the players retained the upper hand, as the league dropped its demand for a luxury tax or any other mechanism that would act as a drag on escalating salaries.

The season began on January 20, 1995, and was shortened from 84 games to 48. The NHL All-Star Game was canceled.

The 2004-05 NHL Lockout

This was the big one, resulting in the cancellation of the entire NHL season, with no Stanley Cup champion declared.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the lockout on September 15, 2004, nearly a month before regular season games were scheduled to begin.

NHL owners demanded an inflexible cap on player salaries, claiming that player costs drained up to 75% of team revenues. The NHLPA disputed that figure.

The PA took a hard stand against any form of salary cap, and declared that players would sit out the entire season if necessary.

Despite the adamant public stance, players began breaking ranks a few weeks into the lockout, with several commenting that a cap might be acceptable under the right circumstances.

The Players' Association made headlines in December by offering an across-the-board 24 per cent rollback of current salaries.

In February there was another flurry of activity, and rumors that both sides were prepared to compromise. Later it was revealed that the NHLPA had agreed to a salary cap at this point, but the two sides could not agree to a cap figure.

On February 18, Bettman announced the cancellation of the season, though several last-ditch meetings took place in the days after.

In April, the NHLPA introduced the idea of a salary cap with an upper and lower limit. This would become the framework for the new CBA.

Meetings continued through the spring and summer until a tentative agreement was announced on July 13.

The owners got their salary cap, and the NHLPA was seen to be badly defeated. Executive director Bob Goodenow, who had led the rallying cry of "no cap," was replaced.

But the salary cap system adopted was tied to league revenues, with the players guaranteed a fixed percentage of the take every season. This would prove to be a bonanza for the players, as revenues skyrocketed in the years after.

The players also gained more control over their careers, with the age of unrestricted free agency dropping to 27 by 2009.

The 2012-13 NHL Lockout

The lockout began September 15, 2012, with the two sides separated by a host of issues.

The NHL demanded a greater share of league revenues, new limits on player contracting rights, and other concessions.

The NHLPA had announced that it would not fight to eliminate the salary cap. The players' were said to be largely happy with the terms of the just-expired CBA, and much of their effort would go towards maintaining the status quo.

From the early days of negotiating, the NHLPA agreed to take 50 percent of league revenues (down from 57 percent the previous season) and accepted some of the limits on contracting and salary being demanded by the league.

But the sides remained far apart on several issues, and the possibility of another cancelled season loomed until early January, when a marathon bargaining session found the two sides meeting in the middle on most contentious issues.

The new deal imposed the new 50/50 revenue split, saw a limit of seven-to-eight years on player contracts, increased revenue sharing, and improved the players' pension plan.