The odds of the 2012-13 National Hockey League season starting as scheduled on October 6 simply boils down to slim and no chances. As reported by Yahoo! Sports, the players association appears more than ready to strike while owners are steadfast and appear unified in anticipation of a lockout.
Yet this is nothing new to the NHL or professional sports in the United States.
Some work stoppages in pro sports simply fizzled out over a couple of days. Others lasted months. As we saw in the 1994 baseball campaign, there were even occasions where organizations cancelled a significant chunk of a professional season resulting in the loss of playoff games and, in the case of Major League Baseball, the World Series.
In the end, no matter what the outcome, the fans ultimately lose.
Here is a look at the four most meaningful strikes in the history of U.S. sports:
National Hockey League (1994)
From October 1, 1994, until January 11, 1995, the NHL lockout caused the cancellation of 468 games. The league played the previous season without a collective bargaining agreement with the issue of salary caps the sticking point in negotiations. Despite the best efforts of management, the lockout accomplished little for their efforts with the exception being a revised revenue sharing agreement. Only rookies would be subject to salary caps. The lack of a cap would go on to stress league finances and the matter, much of which was unresolved, would continue to haunt the sport.
National Football League (1987)
The 1987 NFL season was one of the most bizarre in history. Due to the 24 day lockout, the 16 game schedule was reduced to 15 games and replacement players were utilized from weeks four to six. Americans witnessed dismal football on a professional level and pressure mounted for both sides to end the strike quickly. At the heart of the matter was free agency. While neither party declared victory, the strike is significant given it acted as a catalyst for today’s NFL system of free agency. Thus, it had far reaching implications from the eventual development of franchise tags to the current pension system.
National Hockey League (2004)
Unresolved issues from the 1994 strike came to a boiling point in July of 2004 resulting in one of the most bitter strikes in sports history. Subsequently, the 2004-05 season was lost and the sport was significantly damaged in the eyes of fans. Free agency and salary caps were at the heart of the matter as players resisted restrictions while the owners realized they needed to control player contracts or risk the financial health of small and mid-market teams. Though the season was lost, the strike was a stunning victory for the owners in the long run who, in one form or another, achieved a degree of financial certainty they desired.
Major League Baseball (1994)
Years of unresolved issues pertaining to free agency, the owners disdain for salary arbitration, and the perception of out of control salaries dominated baseball negotiations in the early 1990’s. The situation finally peaked on August 12, 1994, when the MLB Players Association announced a work stoppage. It would eventually last 232 days. The impending strike created long lasting bitterness between fans of the sport and professional organizations as well as the players. In the short run, neither player representative, Donald Fehr, nor management representative, Richard Ravitch, would make initial concessions which resulted in negotiations spiraling out of control. The situation only seemed to worsen when both the U.S. Supreme Court and President Clinton weighed in. The strike eventually ended on April 2, 1995, with both sides as losers. Fans continued their protests into the 1995 season and television revenue fell significantly. Teams such as the Montreal Expos had their financial instability even further shaken. Little was accomplished in terms of a salary cap or free agency agreements which would continue to plague the sport over the coming years. It was, without question, the most visible of any sports strike in U.S. sports history.