Notebook > Sports

Hockey lockout

Sports

Issue: "Year in Review 2004," Jan. 1, 2005

How far has the NHL fallen this year? All the way to the minor leagues. When the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League needed a left winger, the team signed one of the world's best. On Oct. 29 Brendan Morrow, exiled from the Dallas Stars by a lockout that threatens to cancel the NHL's season, joined the minor league team, making him the second NHL player to skate in the CHL this season.

The NHL's lockout has been inspired by simple math, with many franchises swimming in red ink for years. An independent audit revealed NHL teams lost $273 million during the 2002-03 season and $224 million last year. The same report showed that players' salaries ate up 76 percent of teams' revenues. As the two sides negotiated in December-with the players offering to forfeit up to 24 percent of their salaries-an owners' proposal of a salary cap remained the sticking point.

Mr. Morrow, meanwhile, has been playing for a middle-class salary. He would have been paid more than $18,000 a game if the owners and players had not scuttled the season. His salary before quitting the Blazers in mid-December: $725 a week.

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