Table of Contents

Research Handbook of Employment Relations in Sport

Research Handbook of Employment Relations in Sport

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by Michael Barry, James Skinner and Terry Engelberg

Employment relations, much discussed in other industries, has often been neglected in professional sports despite its unique characteristics. The book aims to explore in detail the unique nature of the employment relationship in professional sports and the sport industry.

Chapter 9: Power games: understanding the true nature of season-ending labor disputes in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League

Peter Bouris and Rafael Gomez

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, economics and finance, sports


Ten and twenty years respectively separate most fans from the twin labor disputes that cancelled the entire 2004–05 National Hockey League (NHL) season and the 1994 Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series. Despite their lack of temporal currency both events still cause much consternation, especially amongst those fans whose teams were poised to enjoy serious playoff runs. In baseball, Canada’s two franchises (the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays) never fully recovered, and in one case (the Expos) the team actually relocated to another city. The NHL and MLB therefore hold the ignominious distinction of being the only professional sports leagues to have ever cancelled their respective championships due to labor disputes. Why did these season-ending work stoppages occur? What were the motives involved? And perhaps more importantly, who benefited the most from such high-stakes bargaining? We feel these questions deserve a serious second look and indeed a second asking largely because the existing sports literature has failed to account for these events in a meaningful way and because popular perceptions of both work stoppages are, we feel, woefully off the mark. Indeed, a number of myths surrounding both the 1994 baseball and the 2004–05 hockey work stoppages need to be dispelled right at the outset.

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