After weeks of frustrated negotiations between NHL owners and players — not to mention finger-crossing by fans hoping for a hockey season — the unfortunate verdict is in: It's time for yet another hockey lockout. At 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, a seven-year collective bargaining agreement between NHL owners and players, which awarded players 57 percent of hockey-related revenues, came to an end — and the two sides can't agree on what the new revenue split should be. Without a deal, the 2012-2013 NHL season could be delayed, or even canceled. And this labor dispute is just the latest in a long string of frustrations for NHL fans, who have repeatedly suffered at the mercy of contract battles between owners and players. The last lockout, which took 301 days to resolve, ended when the players agreed to a salary cap — but not before the entire 2004-2005 season was wiped out. With players and owners refusing to cave, and no resolution in sight, who should fans blame for the NHL's latest lockout?

Blame the owners: The owners are making "a cash grab," says Allan Muir at Sports Illustratedand they're going to get away with it. The players are clearly "willing to work in 'partnership' with the owners" to find a fair solution." But the owners don't need to find a fair solution; though the players draw fans, they're essentially "replaceable parts," and the owners possess the game and the battlefield. The lockout will only end when "the players abandon their idealism and take a cut at or slightly above 50 percent" — far less than the 57 percent they get now.
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Blame the players: The owners may have the upper hand, but "the fate of the upcoming season is in the players' hands," says Nicholas Goss at Bleacher Report. The Players' Association knows that "a new CBA won't get done without the players moving closer to what the owners want." And the union already turned down an offer from the NHL last week. Obviously, their options aren't getting better. If the players care about "what's best for the sport" — and for NHL fans — it's time to "put personal pride to the side" and agree to a realistic deal.
"NHL lockout: NHLPA must take responsibility to get new CBA done and save season"

Blame everyone: This can be pinned on "colossal stupidity" on both sides, says Scott Burnside of ESPN. Negotiations have been plagued by blunders from the very beginning, from the players getting hung up on having "the moral high ground" to the owners' "two-faced" decision to sign players under contracts they now want to abolish. Both sides were "simply prepared to pass through the ending of the current CBA and into lockout mode without breaking a sweat," and neither has shown any aspect of "the core principles that make the game so strong and enduring." With two stubborn, self-serving sides at war, everyone loses — especially the fans.
"NHL, NHLPA throwing it all away"