Monday, January 21, 2013

Game On

Editor's note: I started writing this post in the day or two after the tentative deal to end the NHL lockout was struck. Then I got the flu, and I'm finishing it on the 3rd day of the regular season.

They did it. Despite the best efforts of the negotiating heads of the two sides, a deal was done, and we're going to see NHL hockey in the 2012-2013 season. And I didn't think it was going to happen.

A couple of unrelated thoughts now that the lockout is over.

The NHL owners, teams, and players need to work, for at least the balance of this season, to make this up to us. I don't care if it's hockey hot beds like Montreal and Toronto, or smaller markets like Phoenix and New Jersey. A dispute that us fans had no control over cost us half a season of their product as well as pain and suffering, so they owe us.

And it shouldn't just apply to season ticket holders. It should extend to anyone still willing to buy tickets, and it should really apply to those who aren't going to buy tickets. The NHL is a business. We got that lesson loud and clear over the past 5 months. But a business is no good without customers (that's actually all I know about business).

NHL GameCenter would be good to give away for free this year. NHL Center Ice too (though the cable operators, innocent pawns in this like us, would lose out making money too, but maybe the NHL should cover some of those losses to extend a rather large olive branch to us fans). The ironic thing about that, at least for me, is that I live in a place where I already get full schedules for 3 NHL teams and yet I want more. Some markets only get one team, and it's so far away that it really isn't "theirs".

The negotiations really came down to the wire. Another 2 days of bargaining, looking at how the week before training camp could open went with the legal stuff, and I don't think there could have been a season. I'll give them credit for finishing up on Saturday even though it was just before 5am on Sunday because the Saturday session never actually ended until the deal was done. As it was, training camp was 1 day less than what everyone had speculated (and probably 1 week too short). Another day of negotiations, and I don't think it could have worked. I don't think people realize how close it really was.

Now, imagine if the whole lockout had happened before NEXT season with the Olympics taking place during the NHL season. I know it hasn't quite been settled whether the NHL players will participate in the Olympics, but imagine if the league and NHLPA were negotiating against a deadline to start a season that had to be interrupted for the Olympics. Or that the concession was the players would have to skip the Olympics. A realistic deadline for a stop-and-start season would have been much much earlier (by at least a month). Hard to realistically place the lockout and Olympics together and speculate what might have been, it's also entirely possible that the season could have been lost BECAUSE of the Olympics.

At the end of the lockout, I had the odds up to 20% that the league never played another game. Obviously that didn't happen, but during the lockout, with the almost toxic nature of the bargaining, I really thought there was a possibility that it could happen. I really don't understand the issues, and obviously it was a bit more complicated than a 50/50 split, but the process of getting to the agreement is a bit nuts. I've also believed that there were at least one or two owners who were looking to take everything they could from the players at any expense.
In the end, it was reported that the owners voted 30-0 in favor of the deal which ultimately ended the lockout, but I really didn't trust them. Sometimes, a real commissioner with power would step up and force any owners not acting in the best interest of the entire league (and a work stoppage and another cancelled season certainly would not have been in the best interest of the league) to sell their team. But the NHL doesn't have such a commissioner.

Back to more rational thinking. I don't really know the politics of the NHL or NHLPA or how collective bargaining really is supposed to work, but I did ponder this.

But in the end, they got a deal done, they saved the season, the heads of both sides are still losers...

And I leave you with the build up the Devils gave us before each Playoff game last season.

Game On!

Leave a comment or drop me a line at DyHrdMET [at] gmail [dot] com. Your comments will fall into a moderation queue.