Rising player salaries mostly to blame

Updated: September 19, 2003, 2:29 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- NHL teams posted record losses of nearly $300 million last season, according to figures distributed to owners this summer.

That was an increase of 35 percent from the $218 million in operating losses incurred by the league last year.

The losses are blamed on soaring player salaries. Without a salary cap, the NHL spent 76 percent of $1.93 billion in revenue on players salaries and benefits. That is a greater percentage than in the NBA, NFL or major league baseball.

"This is a level at which no business can survive," Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, told The Wall Street Journal in an article about league finances. "The league will lose teams and players will lose jobs if we can't fix this."

The NHL would not comment further to The Associated Press.

The league will seek what commissioner Gary Bettman calls "cost certainty," in bargaining a new collective agreement with its players association. The current deal expires in September 2004 and there are expectations that negotiations will be stormy, possibly resulting in a strike or lockout.

The NHL locked out players for 103 days in 1994 and reportedly has assembled a $300 million war chest as it prepares for contract talks.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press