NEW YORK — Icing the National Hockey League's 2004-'05 season also hobbled participants in the 401(k) plan the league runs for its roughly 900 players.
Another group that could take a hit because of the cancellation is the US$65 billion Ontario Teachers Retirement System, Toronto, which owns a 58% stake in Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, Toronto, the entity that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lee Fullerton, an Ontario Teachers spokeswoman, said: "There are some short-term impacts with this, but we're very long-term investors."
Responding to questions about the NHL's 401(k) plan, Craig Harnett, the NHL's chief financial officer, said: "The players earn service credits for games played, and since there are no games being played, there are no contributions."
Mr. Harnett declined to state how much, on average, is contributed to the plan each year, as did Jonathan Weatherdon, a spokesman for the National Hockey League Players Association, Toronto. While neither would say how large the plan is, a source familiar with the plan said it has roughly $45 million in assets, with contributions of about $17 million to $18 million per year.
Implementation of a revenue-linked salary cap is what prompted the September lockout by the league, which led to cancellation of the NHL season. According to published reports, the NHLPA argued that such a cap would be unfair to players because the NHL's expansion in the past decade spread the league too thin. The NHL asserts such a cap was fair because it includes a profit-sharing plan for players. Both sides rejected each other's offers.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, which expired this year, the league's 30 teams make 75% of the contributions at the end of every season to the defined contribution plan, while the players' association pays 25%. (If the union cannot make its payment, the league makes up the difference.) Segal Advisors Inc., Boston, is consultant.
Starting in 1997, NHL players with more than 400 games played (roughly four to five seasons, depending on the number of playoff games played) also receive $12,500 per year at age 45 and a lump sum payment of up to $250,000 at age 55 from a separate trust fund maintained by the NHL.
Players with less than 400 games played are eligible to receive $8,000 per year beginning at age 45.
That trust fund also is used to finance a separate plan for players who retired before 1986. The NHLPA's Mr. Weatherdon said the trust fund is "handled through annuity contracts with an insurance company. The plans are fully funded and do not require additional contributions from the league or the clubs for players who start to draw their pensions."
He would not disclose the size of the trust fund.
The NHL also maintains a defined benefit plan for non-playing employees that the source familiar with the plans said has less than $100 million in assets. The source did not know if the NHL planned to make contributions to that fund. During a Feb. 16 press conference in New York, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said simply, "In as much as we have obligations, they will be satisfied."