October 27, 2012
NHL Lockout: Time is ticking away…

Being a NHL Hockey fan in the last 8 years has been great. The game has constantly been growing with each year gaining more revenue (record $3.3 billion last year), new rule changes and the overall skill getting higher. The league’s teams have been fairly balanced with 29 out of 30 teams making the playoffs (sorry Leafs fans). The only problem we had to deal with during those years would have to be the 2004 lockout. I remember it quite vividly.

I was at the Air Canada Centre when Jeremy Roenick went top corner past Ed Belfour to end the last playoff series the Toronto Maple Leafs competed in the past 8 years. This elimination felt different however. The crowd’s reaction was something I will remember for the rest of my life. The second the puck hit the back of the net, everyone went dead silent. You could hear the humming of the air conditioning. The silence just perfectly represented the pure shock and awe reactions that rippled through the crowd. To say that I was sad is a complete understatement. I was devastated but the only thing that kept me up was to look forward to the next season. Sadly, there was none. Being young, I remember being just totally confused by the whole situation and asking the simple question, the league is doing great, what is all this arguing about? 8 years later, I am asking myself the same question.

Here we are again, another NHL Lockout. The third lockout in 17 years and the third lockout Gary Bettman has been the NHL Commissioner for.  It is the same situation with players complaining about a pay cut and owners wanting a larger piece of that cash pie. It is easy to see the two arguments. Owners want more of the players’ money as the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players Association) were receiving 57% of the Hockey Related Revenue in the previous expiring CBA. The argument present from the players is that they already took a 24% pay cut in 2004-05 and they definitely don’t want to go through that again this time around.

The recent months of negotiations have been interesting to say the least. It started with NHL putting down the first proposal which was basically a slap to the face of the NHLPA asking them to take their current hold of 57% of HRR to 47% which is a payroll reduction of $460 million or in other words, another 24% pay cut. The players and Don Fehr had absolutely none of that and counter offered with a deal that would see the players starting out in the first year with 50.1% of HRR and back to 57% of the HRR in the fourth year.  The NHL was not fond of that proposal which at this point, made talks fall apart.  Now in the recent weeks, NHL surprised everyone with the first new proposal (that actually looked quite fair on paper) in months which stated a 50/50 split of the HRR with a full 82-game season starting on November 2nd. With this offer present, fans were looking up and actually optimistic about seeing a full season but the NHLPA brought everyone’s hopes to a crashing fall when they denied the offer. They made 3 new counter proposals but the NHL turned down all 3 within 10 minutes of each. This is where we are now. The dream of a full 82 game season seems to be all but dead. Fans are just hoping for some type of season to start and not a repeat of a full lockout like what occurred in 2004-05.

Now my thoughts on this might be a little morbid but it represents this whole situation well. This whole conflict and issue is just utterly depressing. It is sad to see rich millionaires that are tweeting about their loud, fast Ferraris (like Derek Roy) complain about taking a 12% pay cut (as represented in the latest NHL 50/50 offer) and it is sad to see owners refusing counter-proposals within 10 minutes. When the negotiations started, I was quite optimistic. I was under belief of “No way, they would scrap another season right?” Sadly, it looks this might be the case. This would usually affect me heavily. The thought of no hockey for me is terrible but for some reason, I have come to reason with it. Whenever I see people on my Twitter/Facebook feed being hopeful for a season, I just feel terribly bad for them because I know in the long run, they will be disappointed. Every meeting that occurs between the NHL and NHLPA always has the same outcome. It starts out with general optimism, fans hoping for some type of development but it constantly ends up with Fehr and Bettman making shots about how each other’s proposal are terrible and way off base of their demands. It is just a constant, depressing outcome that is inevitable after every negotiation which is why my overall impression about this whole issue is I have completely given up. Until there is a signed deal on the table, until I see my social media feeds explode with confirmed deals that lead to a NHL 2012-13 season, I will always be under the impression that there won’t be any NHL hockey this year. This is all to help me from going completely insane.

Now I know this has been quite the depressing article, but it isn’t the end of the world if there is no 2012-13 NHL season. Luckily, there are many other hockey leagues out there. A lot of the NHL players have moved out to Europe to play in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) and if you want daily highlights of that, Steve Dangle and Audrey Osadchenko provide great videos on the KHL Youtube Channel. If you want to check out some players that will most likely be in the NHL in the coming years, you can always watch the junior leagues like the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) and WHL (Western Hockey League) which you can watch stars like Connor McDavid (a 15 year old who is just tearing up the league and what scouts are saying the next Sidney Crosby) in the OHL and Morgan Rielly (the Toronto Maple Leafs 2012 5th Overall draft pick who has 18 points in 14 games and is looking to be a key future player for the rebuilding team) in the WHL. The most popular known alternative to the NHL would have to be the American Hockey League, the primary development league for NHL teams.  This league features many NHL players like Jeff Skinner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that were able to be sent down to the AHL, making the overall skill and competition much higher than it has in recent years.  If you want to know where you can watch AHL, OHL or WHL games, keep on the lookout on Sportsnet in Canada as they have been showing many of these leagues’ matchups.

The NHL has been a complete rollercoaster of ups and downs these past 8 years. With the league growing and expanding faster than it has ever been before, we are left with a terrible situation as of right now with the lingering notion of seeing no NHL hockey at all. It all goes back to that last night of Maple Leafs playoff hockey in 2004. The dead silence and immediate shock that was all across the crowd’s faces represents the fans current lookout of this whole issue. Hopefully this all ends soon and we can be looking forward to a new NHL hockey season but unfortunately, the future outcome is not looking too positive.