Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss and the rest of the NHL players could be locked out this weekend, if their union and the league fail to reach a collective bargaining agreement. (AP)

The NFL did it. The NBA did it. The NFL did it again, this time with the refs. And the NHL has been dancing with the idea for months.

What is it with all these lockouts?

Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal talked with Bill Littlefield about how the lockout became a go-to move for professional leagues involved in contentious contract negotiations.

“It gives the owners a sense of control, that they’re controlling the course of action,” Futterman said.

The NFL locked out players in 2011, and though the league cut one pre-season game, the incident was less hostile than it could have been.

“I think there was a sense throughout that both sides knew this was going to cost everybody too much money if it got to the point of losing regular season games,” Futterman said.

And since most of these arguments come down to money, that was an unacceptable scenario for the NFL. The NBA had to shorten its season to 66 games last year after a lockout that kept players from contacting coaches and trainers.

“The owners basically have what they want at this point,” Futterman said. “They have salary caps, they have limits on free agency. There’s nothing really existential to fight about anymore.”

Of the leagues, Major League Baseball has the most civilized way of settling agreements, Futterman said.

“The people that were leading that process, namely the commissioner, lived through the ’94 strike and saw the damage that was done. They don’t want to do that anymore.”

Today, the MLB has mature labor negotiations, Futterman said, thanks to few issues with the structure of the sport and a healthy process for making agreements.

Not so in the NHL.

“Hockey definitely has its struggling franchises,” said Futterman, and the rest of the league has to pick up the slack from these teams.

“However, Phoenix and Florida and Nashville did really well last year, and those are three teams people point to as having some financial problems. So, there’s a good deal of competitive balance in the league despite whatever financial problems may exist.”

According to Futterman, the players might be willing to surrender a portion of their salaries to sustain the less financially stable teams, but they want the wealthiest owners to help pick up the slack.

“The players are all well-educated,” Futterman said. “They understand it’s a business, and at the end of the day, they don’t want to be treated like chumps.”

But because many players are unwilling to give up an entire season’s salary, there’s a chance of concessions from players.

“They’re willing to settle for a smaller part of the pie going forward,” Futterman said, if it will mean a 2012-2013 season.