Your statements seems contradictory? If the top salary was 100k or whatever (doesn't matter)... the players would still be there... but the owners wants to limit the salary by reducing the players share... and the players won't agree to it?
There would be players, yes. It's just a question of what players - would elite athletes choose hockey over other sports at a young age, etc.
I'm 100% on the owners side. It's their business, their risk... the players are employees, exceptional employees no doubt, but not partners. They shouldn't have input on how much of the revenue they receive.
Nothing on the ethics of owning a business where the government hands you lots of money because otherwise you'll move. Nothing on the idea that while NHL teams are individually each a business, they're somehow allowed to collectively bargain as a single entity. There is a partnership - the owners steal the money, and then hand a lot of it over to the players, then gouge local governments for new buildings or they threaten to leave.
They shouldn't have input on the percentage of revenue they get, you are absolutely right there. The league shouldn't be allowed to collectively bargain with a player's union. Which of course would lead to much higher salaries overall and unfortunately, a much less balanced NHL.