Olie Kolzig may be an associate goaltending coach rather than a player, and his stake in how this summer’s labor negotiations play out has certainly changed, the former Capital is still left with a bitter taste from the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Eight years ago, when the NHL owners and players’ association last needed to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement, they became the first major professional sport in North America to lose an entire season.
“It was awful. It was awful,” Kolzig said. “I don’t think our union was prepared for how tough a stance the owners had. I think we were waiting to call their bluff, and they didn’t blink. We didn’t really have a Plan B, and as a result we missed the whole season. It is money that I’ll never make back. That was the peak of my career. A lot of other players, it was the end of their career. It was just an ugly situation that I don’t think anybody wants to ever see happen again, no matter what sport it is.”
When players came back following that lost year, they entered a new salary-cap world and saw their contract salaries rolled back 24 percent along with a host of other changes.
In the negotiations that loom over this offseason some of the major issues include: the players’ share of revenues, limits on contract length and structure, the salary floor and redefining free agency.
“It’s the not-so-fun part of sports,” Kolzig said. “But I suspect that both sides understand that the NHL has grown so much the last few years that they don’t want to slow any momentum down or give any kind of negative outlook toward the NHL.”
Many players still active in the league endured the 2004-05 lockout, including several on the players’ association negotiating committee, and that first-hand experience of having lost a season may help the process along this time.
“I think so, especially communicating with the younger guys that maybe haven’t gone through this process and letting them know, because it is ultimately the players’ vote on what they agree to and what they won’t agree to,” Kolzig said. “I think it won’t be as biased an outlook as it was maybe back in 2004. I think both sides really are going to try to hammer something out.”
Talks between the NHL and players’ association began on June 29 and so far the sides have met four times, with additional discussions set for Friday and next week. While negotiations are in the infancy stages and neither side has divulged much publicly, Kolzig believes that the league and players have learned what a prolonged work-stoppage costs the sport.
“They’re going to try their hardest to get it done, and if for whatever reason it doesn’t get done by [the current CBA’s expiration on] Sept. 15, I would assume it would get done in a short amount of time,” Kolzig said. “I don’t think you’re going to see what happened in 2004.”
— In other news, the Capitals have agreed to a one-year contract with AHL center Zach Hamill. Acquired via trade from the Boston Bruins in May, Hamill was a restricted free agent this summer and is expected to play for the Hershey Bears.
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