February 8, 2013
Hockey: It is finally back.

(This is my article that will be showing up in the latest issue of the Richmond Hill High School newspaper, The Spyglass)

Hockey. It is the sport our country is known for. After months of negotiations, it has finally returned.

The National Hockey League’s distribution of money is focused and based on something called a Collective Bargaining Agreement. What this document provides for the league is an agreement between the NHL Owners and the NHL Players Association to help decide where money goes to. The purpose of negotiating is to satisfy the owners and players salary wise and to make sure the money is distributed fairly. However, a major problem with this is the collective bargaining itself as the process is quite rigorous to say the least. It is the direct reason why three lockouts have happened in the last nine years. That means approximately 2250 games have been lost in that time period, which is a huge detriment to the NHL and the game as a whole.

One of the worst lockouts that the NHL has experienced might have been the most recent one. The 2012-13 CBA meetings help bring out the worst in fans and even players. The major difference from this lockout and the ones prior would be the use of social media as the NHL Players and fans were very open with their thoughts about what was happening during the negotiations at the time. Players like RJ Umberger, Logan Couture and even Richmond Hill native Mike Cammalleri were tweeting their distasteful feelings towards the NHL Owners and specifically the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman.

If there was ever a face that would represent the overall fans hate in a nutshell, it would definitely be Gary Bettman’s. He has been the NHL Commissioner since February 1st, 1993. Lockouts were unheard of until 1994 came around and the first one occurred under his position. In NBA, MLB, NFL, CFL or any league out there, there has been no one who has come close to losing as many games (due to lockouts) as Gary Bettman has for the NHL.

Gary shouldn’t take all the blame though. He only represents one side to the issue. There was also Don Fehr, who helped represent the National Hockey League Players Association. He doesn’t have a great record either as he is the reason for one of the worst work stoppages in the history of sports as in 1994/1995, he was responsible for the cancelling of the MLB season of that year. It left fans of baseball outraged just as the fans felt during this recent lockout. In 2010, Fehr joined the NHLPA and became the Executive Director which is the role has today.

The NHL’s CBA document, which lasted from 2005 to 2012, expired on September 15th, 2012. This was the official start of the lockout and when negotiations for the new CBA started to ramp up. The months that followed were completely tedious and treacherous for fans to follow as it had constant up and downs. It had moments where fans and analysts fully expected a deal would be completed within 24-48 hours, to which not long after, talks completely fell apart and fans were left back thinking if they were going to see hockey in 2012/13. These peaks and valleys were what fueled the anger that every fan of Hockey had inside of them. It was building to the point where long time watchers of the sport started to contemplate even caring about it. NHL and NHLPA began to feel they needed to make a deal and so, on January 6th, after 16 hours of vigorous and, what felt, never-ending talks, they finally came to a decision on a new CBA. This season started on January 19th and will be 48 games long, which is short compared to the usual 82 but obviously, much better than nothing.

Once the talks were done, people were left wondering if the lockout was going to have a direct effect on the sport. Will fans of the sport just stop watching? Will they lose ticket sales? Will this upcoming season be a complete failure? All these questions were erased when January 19th came around as the ratings showed that not only did fans come back to watch the sport, but it seems like people who have never watched Hockey also have started to get into it as NBC saw the highest NHL ratings in 11 years. Not only is the NHL back, but it has returned in spectacular fashion.

With no NHL, you lose kids from getting inspired to go out and play the sport. You lose kids in Richmond Hill High School from joining the Raiders Hockey team. You lose the possibility of seeing another Gretzky or Lemieux from revolutionizing the sport. With NHL returning, you avoid all those possibilities and instead, do the opposite. Game on.

Article by Robert Myers. Follow me on Twitter.