The enemy within

The next lockout is coming unless NHL shoots down a big financial albatross

Originally Published: October 31, 2012
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine
Gary Bettman AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Chris YoungGary Bettman and the owners must fix the league's revenue sharing system.

HOW MUCH OFthe NHL's money should go to its players? That question has dominated labor negotiations, fan chatter and media analysis since the league's owners imposed their lockout on Sept. 15.

But the key issue facing hockey isn't whether players should receive roughly 74 percent of NHL revenues (as they did before the lockout that ended the 2004-05 season) or 57 percent (as they did under the last deal) or 50 percent (as the owners recently offered). It isn't about how owners and players should share revenues at all. It's about how owners should share revenues with one another. Unless the league resolves that question correctly, its financial problems will remain -- and the game will be destined for more lockouts.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.