Here we go again. For the third time since 2004, the NLL is trying to negotiate a new CBA with its players. The first time, talks broke down but they decided to extend the existing contract by a year. The next year, just before the 2005 season, the league gave a deadline of October 1 and said that if an agreement wasn’t reached by then, the season would be cancelled. They reached an agreement on a new 3-year contract a few hours after the deadline passed, and the season went on.
That contract expired at the end of last season, and now we’re down to the wire yet again, with today being the deadline. According to the NLL website, talks broke off early this morning with no more scheduled.
I know that the owners have offered about a 3% pay increase, and the players want more, but I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that. I don’t know any more details, so I don’t have enough information to have an opinion on which side is right or wrong. But I think the players are in a tough bargaining position here. Many of the NLL franchise owners also own NHL teams, and they lost an entire season a couple of years ago. The NLL has even said that those owners would “not think twice about losing a lacrosse season”. If they’re that willing to lose a season, the players have no strength. What can they threaten the owners with?
At the same time, the owners have got to know that losing an NLL season likely means the end of the league, and whatever investment they’ve made would be gone. Lacrosse is still too much of a fringe sport at this point, and the NLL simply cannot afford to lose an entire season. If it vanished because of a labour dispute, many people would leave and not bother coming back. MLB is still recovering from the baseball strike, and that was thirteen years ago. Blue Jays attendance isn’t anywhere near what it was before the strike, though the team won the two World Series immediately before the strike, and has been mediocre at best since then, so I’m sure that’s part of it. Sure there are the die-hard lacrosse fans, but a lot of the fans enjoy watching the games, but if the league vanished, they’d just think “Oh well, that was fun while it lasted” and move on, more than likely not looking back.
Knowing the NLL’s tendency to completely ignore deadlines (especially the ones they set themselves), it wouldn’t surprise me for the deadline to come and go, and the season not get cancelled, or even get cancelled and then get “un-cancelled” a couple of days later, once an agreement is reached. If it really does get cancelled though, bye bye NLL.
Another update: It’s official.