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Lightning players preparing for NHL lockout

11:55 PM, Sep 15, 2012   |    comments
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It sounds like hockey's rendition of Robin Hood, with team owners wanting to spread out money from the big market teams and give it to the small market teams.

But it comes at a price, potentially another NHL lockout.

Making it the fourth time in 20 years, the league and its players can't agree on a new labor deal.

This time they are trying to split up 3.3 billion dollars in revenue.

The lockout is set to begin at 11:59 tonight for the sport considered to be fourth most popular in the United States.

The NHL and the NHL Players Association have been unable to come to an understanding on a new collective bargaining agreement.

"From our standpoint, we put a good offer on the table and they are doing the old school tactics of bullying us around," said Lightning left wing Ryan Malone.

In the last lockout, the players took a nearly twenty five percent rollback of their contracts and endured a salary cap, yet they gained a healthy 57 percent of all league-generated revenue.

Only seven years later, the owners aren't happy with that C.B.A.

"They said that was going to be the end all be all to fix this league, and everything has grown so much as a game and they still want to rollback the players," said Lightning center Steven Stamkos.

The owners want to roll back the players to the tune of 47 percent -- that's a ten percent decrease from the previous C.B.A. The 10 percent accounts for nearly 330 million dollars.

Now, the cold reality is the NHL is on the cusp of its third lockout in just eighteen years, and much like the lockout in 1994, last season the league experienced all-time highs in revenue and TV ratings.

In 2005, it wasn't only a bitter experience for the players, but for the Lightning fans, who had to wait two seasons before their Stanley Cup championship banner was unveiled.

"It was frustrating in 2004 and it's the same thing now. I mean, with the fan base that we have and the way it's been the last two years, it's been amazing here for a potential lockout. It's sad for the fans," said Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier.

Fans have taken to the web with petitions, and were even in front of the Tampa Bay Times Forum this morning protesting the impending lockout.

Like the fans, the players want a hockey season. They say the puck is in the owners' end.

"I mean, if they feel the need to shutdown the whole season, I don't think they're that stupid...We know everyone wants to see hockey get on the ice as fast as we can and hopefully we can actually work something out."

The two sides have been negotiating, but they are still said to be far apart on the percentage.

If it's going to be a lengthy lockout, Lecavalier hasn't ruled out a return to Russia to play in the KHL this season. He's only played in six games since last February, and during the last lockout he played a whole season overseas.

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