It was a month ago that the NHL became the first domestic sports league to announce its plan to return to play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the league has been hard at work at establishing the details of the restart, including hub cities and training camps.
While everything had appeared to be moving as planned, New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin has raised an issue that may put the season at risk, in an all too familiar development under commissioner Gary Bettman.
Despite expressing his excitement to return to the ice, Panarin states that it cannot occur until the escrow situation is resolved, a belief shared by many other players throughout the league.
The escrow was established to provide a 50-50 split in revenue between owners and players. To ensure that takes place, the league withholds a certain percentage of player salaries and the owners take from this pool of money to make up the difference if it were to exist, otherwise returning the money to the players.
The issue here is not the financial split, but the unpredictability of it. In a season without fans, the league's revenue is likely to take a major hit, meaning players will lose out on a large portion of their salaries while risking their health to play amid a global pandemic.
As we have seen in Major League Baseball, concerns like these can quickly evolve into long-lasting holdouts. Bettman's track record indicates just that, as the NHL's CBA has expired three times under his command and all three resulted in lockouts.
If Panarin's sentiment is held by as many players as he suggests, then it would not be a surprise if the NHL finds itself in that place once again.