Time for Puck Drop

NHL-at-the-O2-Arena-001The NHL and NHLPA have consistently sent some mixed messages over the last few months and the media has not helped. There have been some close calls in recent weeks where reports surfaced that the NHL and NHLPA may have finally come to a deal. Many of these reports would be false as the NHL lockout would continue on and close in on another cancelled season. That all changed on Sunday January 6 though as for the only time in the 113 days of the lockout that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr would stand at a microphone together. This would be the announcement that hockey fans had been waiting for since the summer of 2012. The NHL and NHLPA had finally reached a deal to end the NHL Lockout and save the 2012-13 season. It was a long 113 days for all fans as they would suffer through the ridiculous back and forth between millionaires and billionaires. The NHL had come out before September to claim that they had just made $3.3 billion in 2011-12 and then only weeks later would announce that they were not happy with the current CBA, essentially saying that $3.3 billion meant nothing as they would look to make even more with a new CBA. One of the league’s biggest arguments was the fact that there were a number of teams that were struggling and they needed to create a system that would help them stay afloat. There were many issues with this statement but one of them was not that it was untrue. There were plenty of teams suffering even with a $3.3 billion revenue and something needed to be done, although a lockout is not the solution. In the end the lockout is finished and the two sides have come to an agreement with a number of key issues solved. The new deal will feature a 50/50 split in revenue sharing along with changes to the salary cap, $60 million in year one and $64.3 million in year two. The league and union also agreed on a more rigid suspension and appeal process while revenue sharing expands to $200 million with a $60 million growth fund initiated by the NHLPA. The deal has made some changes that were very important to both sides as it seems to be a more even deal than was made in the last lockout.

In the end though, the numbers and new policies in the CBA will mean nothing if they do not achieve the goals that were set out. The goals behind the scenes were clearly for neither side to give up more money than the other side. This is what lockouts and strikes are always about as money is the biggest motivator for everyone in the league. Publicly though the goals were slightly different as they concentrated on the brand of the NHL. The lockout was essentially started to attempt to protect the smaller market teams from going under and in turn strengthening the overall brand of the NHL. The NHL wanted to keep struggling teams like the Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and Dallas Stars afloat. Now after the lockout the league is in a slightly better position to support these teams but that will only be if these teams can last. The loss of most of a season thanks to the lockout is not going to bode well for teams that struggle to cover costs when they have a full schedule of games. Now these teams have 48 games to make their money and for some of them that will not be enough as the likelihood of a team folding in the near future just increased. The lockout is over for the NHL and that is great news for the fans but the business of the NHL is not in a better situation. If anything the loss of this many games has hurt them more than helped them. Canadian fans will always come back and although there might be a small dip there will be no problem. In the USA though hockey was teetering on irrelevance and the loss of most of a season was almost unnoticeable. As this was the case without hockey the new season will be a blip on the radar of American sports and the growth of the brand will suffer. In the end the lockout became pointless as billionaires got richer and millionaires got to keep their big salaries while they lost fans and remained a second-rate league in the bigger sports world of North America.

One Response to “Time for Puck Drop”
  1. Slamdunk says:

    Good analysis.

    But, the shorter season may be more attuned to the interests of the American sports fan (few games meaning the ones played are more relevant). We’ll see.

    I am just glad to have them back.

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