On January 11, 1995, a 103-day lockout of players in the National Hockey League finally ended saving the 1994-95 hockey season, but not before creating a deep resentment between players and owners and cementing Gary Bettman’s role as hockey’s most hated villain.
After months of contract negotiations the NHL locked out players on October 1, 1994. The main stumbling block was a salary cap for players, although the league called it a luxury tax.
The union and players quickly demonized Bettman and none was more vocal than Chris Chellios of the Chicago Blackhawks. The veteran defenceman raised eyebrows when he said, “If I was Gary Bettman I would be worried about my family or I’d be worried about my well-being.”
While the lockout dragged on some players took off for Europe and played there while others stayed in North America.
The NHL Players Association organized a 4-on-4 charity tournament in Hamilton, Ontario. Team Ontario, Team Quebec, Team Western Canada and Team USA played in the 3-day event raising half a million dollars for Ronald Macdonald House.
Wayne Gretzky also had a little fun during the lockout, forming a team with some friends called the 99 Allstars and they played exhibition games in various European countries. Gretzky’s dad Walter was the assistant coach of the team.
In the end, both sides gave up something — NHL owners withdrew their proposal for a salary tax and players allowed a salary cap for rookies. But players did get the age for unrestricted free agency changed to 31.
A shorted season of 48 games instead of 84 kicked off January 20th in New York. The Rangers were finally able to raise their Stanley Cup champion banner from the year before.
After the 1994-95 lockout two Canadian NHL teams in weaker markets moved to the U.S. The Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver in the summer of 1995. And the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996.
For more stories from the 90s, check out my podcast “History of the 90s.” It is available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at http://www.curiouscast.ca