NHL ends lockout, will they learn from it?
Posted January 6, 2013
It should have never come to this, it should have never taken this long, but after months of putting hockey fans through the ringer, there will be an NHL season.
It will not be a full slate of 82 games – the lockout stretching past November ensured that – but at least there will be something. After 113 days, the two sides finally hammered out a deal that more than likely was on the table months ago.
During the press conferences announcing the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, neither side should take credit for this nor use the phrase, “This is a great day.” It is 113 days too late to say that this is great.
The NHL needs to finally learn that it can’t keep locking players out. After talking to several business owners in Raleigh and asking them what would happen if they closed their doors to get things straightened out, the unanimous answer was that there would be no business to reopen.
The NHL owners and league front office can never let this happen again. The NHL is not the NFL or NBA and, in most markets in the southern part of the United States, the NHL are well behind college sports. To lock the doors and force business elsewhere is insane, a move the league has done three times in 20 years. In 10 years or so, when this new CBA needs to be tweaked, they cannot lock the doors again. If they do, they may as well just pack up shop. Hopefully out of all the acrimony between these two sides, the owners see that the players really love the game and just want to play.
The owners also need to see that the league will be better with fewer have-nots and to be on the same page to make sure that the league grows. Infighting with the owners is as damaging as the discourse between players and management.
One more thing: Don’t sign contracts that you don’t intend to pay.
The NHLPA needs to understand that, while their sport is profitable, they won’t reap those benefits if there is no league to play in.
The players did not go on strike, a point that should have been reinforced by the Players Association, but they aren’t void of blame. It appeared there were several times that a deal could have been done sooner that just didn’t happen because Donald Fehr kept pushing the envelope a little farther.
Hopefully this deal has enough to keep the players satisfied moving forward and keep them on the ice.
In the future, the NHLPA needs to know that their sport will never be the No. 1, No. 2, and after this lockout, even the third most popular in the States. So when economic times are tough, concessions need to be made to make sure that the league can keep going.
This won’t make people happy, but Fehr did his job for the players. However, next time Don, find a way to get it done sooner.
As for the fans, it is entirely up to you if you come back to the NHL. If you never buy a ticket again for that product, no one should blame you. For the fans that will never leave the game, it is your decision to show your displeasure with the league and no one should tell you that you are wrong if you are thrilled that it is back or that you could care less about its return. For the fans that stay with the game, the NHL needs to pull out all the stops to thank them.
The roller coaster ride left a terrible taste in fans' mouths, maybe worse than in 2004-05. It will take more than writing 'thank you' on the ice and a few handouts to give a sufficient apology to the people that feel betrayed by how senseless the lockout was.
There will be some hard feelings and there should be. The third lockout in Bettman’s tenure as commissioner was the most irrational in the history of modern sport. Both sides knew that a compromise needed to be made and a new deal had to be struck, but ego too many times intervened. There is plenty of blame to go around for why this deal took so long and finger pointing will still be done by both sides.
But for right now, the long day’s journey into night is over. There will be NHL games, great goals, amazing saves and a Stanley Cup presentation. It doesn’t erase everything, but after all that did not happen in these 113 days, it is nice to have thoughts about the NHL playing games instead of canceling them.