2012 NHL Lockout: Two fans, two opinions

Taylor Rocca, Copy/Web Editor Ω

Billionaires fighting with millionaires angers fans

The NHL deadline day has come and past. With Sept. 15 now in the books, the NHL has locked out its players’ association (NHLPA), bringing about the second NHL work stoppage of the past decade.

One of the more contentious issues currently driving a stake between the NHL and NHLPA is the division of hockey-related revenues (HRR). Coming out of the 2011-12 NHL season, the league raked in $3.3 billion in HRR. Under the now-expired collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the players were entitled to and received 57 per cent of that revenue in the form of salaries and performance bonuses.

The initial CBA proposal that came from the NHL head office called for the NHLPA to take a cut in their share of the revenue, from 57 per cent under the old CBA to 43 per cent within the confines of the new proposal.

While there are countless other issues complicating the CBA negotiations between the two sides, this is the one that sticks out like a sore thumb and has fans all over the world crying out in anger. I am one of those fans.

The game of hockey has seen unprecedented growth since it returned from the previous lockout in 2005. Under the previous CBA, it has become extremely apparent that there is a wealth of problems resulting in large-market teams more-or-less bullying small-market teams out of the competition for high-end talent in the free agency market simply because the large-market teams have a bigger payroll.

This angers me.

Yes, it is business and often times the fatter cheque book or more creative marketer will win the game. But we consistently see Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, platforming on TV about how the owners are looking out for the best interests of the game. My question is, how are they looking out for the best interests of the game when they cannot even follow the rules they themselves put in place during previous CBA negotiations?

What we have is a group of billionaire business owners looking to maximize profit. Can they be blamed for that? No. But they can be blamed for being so bull-headed that they refuse to compromise on their side of the negotiations.

It’s an unfortunate circumstance and a sad, sad situation for hockey fans all over the country. I hate to say it, but I don’t expect to have NHL hockey back on my calendar until January 2013.

In the meantime, I plan on fulfilling my thirst for Canada’s game by checking out my local Canadian Major Junior club, my campus’ varsity hockey team and the local junior B squad that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. I hope that all of you passionate hockey fans do the same. And don’t necessarily go crawling back to the NHL as soon as it returns. How else will the greedy, selfish owners of that business learn a lesson if the people who provide the revenue come back at the drop of a hat?

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω

Saving big bucks on my hockey habit

The fact that we sit in this situation again, a mere seven years later is appalling. With the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement having expired on Sept. 15, it’s become pretty unlikely that we will be seeing any NHL hockey in the next few months, as for the second time in a decade the NHL players association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League have been unable to settle their labour dispute. While I’d like to think things will be resolved soon and we can all get back to watching Canada’s national sport (OK, so not officially, but you know what I mean), with what I know of the dispute and the people involved, I’ll go on the record as a pessimist.

My prediction? The season won’t start until after American Thanksgiving.

The sad thing is, that prediction is on the optimistic end of the scale. Most see this dispute spilling over into 2013 and the extremists expect we’ll miss another complete season. I can’t personally see things going that far and there’s a few reasons why:

  1. The NHL landed a gigantic 10-year, $2-billion ($200-million annually) television contract with NBC last year and majority of the league’s coverage will come after Thanksgiving. Sure, NBC will be paying the NHL throughout the lockout, but I can’t see NHL owners – who repeatedly assert that they are trying to “grow the game” in America – being willing to forfeit a year of primetime television coverage. After all, the lockout is happening because the owners assert they aren’t making enough money. Missing out on TV coverage would only exacerbate that.
  2. The men involved in this dispute are stubborn, but they aren’t dumb. Neither side wants to see this dispute ruin years of diligent PR work and alienate the fan base they have spent so much time cultivating. Unfortunately, as soon as the owners locked the players out some fans threw in the towel on their hockey fandom and who’s to blame them? None of the other three major professional sports leagues have gone through two lockouts in the past decade…
  3. The Winter Classic is kind of a big deal. As perfect a PR stunt as it would be for the NHL to open the season in January with the Winter Classic, I don’t know that an outdoor game in the bitter cold of Detroit is the smartest environment – from a player safety standpoint – to start their season in. The earlier this dispute is settled, the earlier the NHL can start promoting the event and ensuring that it’s the biggest Winter Classic yet.

So there’s my optimistic assessment of how this lockout is going to proceed. Personally, I’ve been resigned to this happening for about a year now, so I’m not all that surprised or upset, but I’d still like to see the NHL start up before too much time is missed. Until that time I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with watching major junior and collegiate hockey, which, let’s be honest, is still a pretty sweet gig.

And hey, at least I don’t have to shell out $200 to go to those games.

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