5 questions answered on the NHL lockout

In the latest edition of five questions, CBCSports.ca tackles the issues of players' salary, how the referees are affected, and the possible length of the work stoppage.
Referee Dan O’Halloran is one of the NHL’s senior officials who will be out of work if regular-season games are missed due to the lockout. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We here at CBCSports.ca want to guide you through the NHL's lockout and we also want you to get involved. In the latest edition of five questions, we tackle the issues of players’ salary, how the referees are affected, and the possible length of the work stoppage. What do you want answered? Use the comment section below and we'll do our best to get you an accurate response.

1. It is not usual for fans to worry about the referees, but what happens to them when there are no NHL hockey games?

Things certainly don’t work out well for the refs in this situation. The best refs have contracts with the NHL, and only the NHL. They will be out of work. Some refs are assigned to 40 games in the NHL and 40 games in the AHL. They will probably get more AHL games if the lockout lasts a long time.  That might actually be a good thing for them as they get a good salary and still practise their trade, which may make them better.  If a referee is suffering from a lack of funds the league is offering them a loan of up to $5,000 US a month.

2. I read all of these comments about NHL players being really rich. How much does the average NHL player get paid?

Nice question, mainly because we have developed an info graphic on this. The average salary in the NHL last season was $2.45 million. In the 2011 fiscal year, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was paid $7.98 million. NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr made somewhere in the neighbourhood of $3 million.

3. There is probably one question that is so obvious that it could be missed. How long do you think the lockout will last?

It’s easy to weasel out of providing an answer to this question because no one knows the answer. Gary Bettman has never negotiated against Donald Fehr, so we don’t know the implications of that relationship.  We do know they are both smart and accomplished negotiators who are accustomed to winning.  If the lockout is going to end, one of the two sides will have to make concessions, and at the moment, there is no indication that either is willing to do this. Sports fans who tend to be positive still say no games will be lost. Others are saying there is a real chance the season could be done.

4. What other sports will the players take up if the lockout goes on and on?

That depends on the player and the length of the dispute. Most players are going to stick with hockey, although there is no doubt that most of them are talented athletes who can play most sports. Manny Malhotra of the Canucks was practising with the Vancouver Whitecaps last week, but will probably not play in a regular-season game. One thing to keep in mind is that players do not want to get hurt, especially playing in a sport that does not help pay the mortgage.

5. Why doesn’t the Harper government legislate them back to work and force an agreement? Hockey is more important to Canadians than the plight of Air Canada and Canada Post, and hockey affects the economy, too.

If only it was that easy. We’re not sure how the Canadian government can force teams based in Chicago, Tampa Bay, Raleigh, New York or even Boston to go back to work. There are some jurisdictional issues there that just might be problematic.