The NHL Lockout is finally over but the damage is done

As you know by now, the NHL Lockout is over and there is a tentative CBA agreement in place between the NHL and the NHLPA.  If the NHL Lockout had gone on for the whole season I had vowed to never watch another game, and never step foot in an NHL Arena again unless it was for a College Game or a concert or something similar.  I would have stuck to it too, because this lockout was ridiculous.  And to be perfectly honest, I’m still pretty bitter about the lockout going on for this long.  The NHL led sponsors/advertisers on for a while, and made it seem like this new CBA they were going to work on would consist of nothing more than a few tweaks, this obviously was not the case.

The deal that has been tentatively done is pretty much a deal they could have made in July or August, had they wanted too.  The Owners during the last lockout got every last thing they wanted in the CBA, it was literally their creation and the players were essentially forced to sign it or they would be locked out forever.  This time, the Owners tried to do almost the exact same thing, except this time the players were prepared to fight back.  There were about 11 teams or so that were driving the lockout, trying to get the best deal possible so that they would stop losing money.  But now to make a deal frustrates me because there is nothing intrinsically unique or difficult about this deal.  And yet, 32 games, the All-Star Game and the Winter Classic were all cancelled.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that a lot of Owners knew that a new CBA would be signed eventually, with no more long-term ridiculous contracts like Ilya Kovalchuk’s, so they did their best to try and sign younger guys to deals that would no longer be allowed under the new CBA.  Not to mention the fact that the some Owners cried poor after giving out massive Free Agent deals to players.

Here are a series of Tweets that will give you some basic/quick facts about the lockout and what exactly the hold up was.

Here are some of the basics of the key issues that got resolved:

  • A salary cap for next season of $64.3 million in 2013-14.
  • The terms of contracts will be seven years and eight years for your own player.
  • The variance of those deals will be in the neighborhood of 30-50%.
  • Each team will be allowed two compliance buyouts in 2013-14.
  • The issue of pensions and how they’re funded. Player rep Ron Hainsey said the pensions were a key to the deal.

Now the CBA is not finalized or signed by anyone, it’s just a tentative agreement.  This means that we will have to wait until it is signed for the exact details.  My main point is that none of this had to wait until the last second to get figured out.  Both sides were just too incredibly stubborn to want to meet and have rational discussions.  The Owners kept low balling the crap out of the players.

Now, I’m not going to defend either side, because the side I’m on is the fans side.  The fans were left out in the cold, forced to watch as the game they love was just tossed aside.  The NHL was coming off a record profit and decided that they needed more.  Coincidentally, they decided they had to lock the players out and hurt the game in order to gain that.  USA Today has a nice “Winners and Losers of the lockout” piece that is worth a read, and I agree with a lot of it.

Now I’ve also got to clarify something, not all of the Owners are at fault for this.  It wasn’t as if every single person that was involved was completely ignorant, it’s just that the ignorant people tend to have the loudest voices and were driving the lockout.  Gary Bettman isn’t completely and utterly to blame for all of this, does anyone actually think he would do anything that the Owners weren’t okay with?  Remember, he’s employed by the Owners, and if they weren’t okay with what he was doing, then he would be fired immediately.   This doesn’t absolve him of blame, this just means, he’s simply not the only bad guy involved in this.  Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHLPA deserves a decent amount of blame as well.  If you know anything about him, he was also the head of the MLBPA when the players went on strike and the World Series was canceled.

People will look at the players and Owners as stupid and selfish, and I am guilty of doing it too, but it’s important to know that not every single owner and player wanted this, and many of them know what they did to the game and its fans.

The Detroit News had a column a few weeks ago detailing the amount of money the league would have lost if they canceled the season and the exact figures of what was lost has not been officially released yet.  But a lot of different publications have a lot of educated guesses/calculations of what has been lost.

The game has been crippled.  The casual fans will likely be gone for good, but a lot of those were gone when the NHL decided it would be smart to go for the money-grab TV contract right after the 2004-2005 lockout and the games ended up on the Outdoor Life Network. OLN soon became Versus and then it has now evolved into NBC Sports Network.  Sure the channel has recognizability now, but they had to build it back up.  Had they taken the smaller contract with ESPN, they would have gotten their product in some prime placements.  People are more likely to check ESPN or ESPN2 when looking for sports to watch, it’s just the way the mothership has trained people to act.

The NHL is going to have to rely on the diehards to bring the game back, and it’s going to be tough.  Many of us are frustrated with this crap going on continually, and it’s like we’re the scorned ex-girlfriend.  Only around when it’s convenient for the other person, and we just get used.  If we didn’t buy tickets, merchandise or drive ratings, we would be ignored.  Hell, we were practically ignored anyways.

It’s difficult for me to be happy that the game is back, because as I’ve said, this all was completely unnecessary.  The only reason a deal got done is because Bettman said the deal had to be done by January 10th to have the season start on January 19th, otherwise they would have to cancel the season.  It wasn’t until the two-sides were pressured that they decided to get a deal done, when they could have saved everyone a lot of hassle and frustration by just showing up and figuring this out earlier in the year.

I’ll leave you with this, at least we won’t be forced to watch only the NBA in late March, there will be options.  Maybe the Owners will do something to restore the faith of the fans and the season ticket holders, but I’m not sure anything could fix this.  Maybe a free subscription to NHL Center Ice would help.  I just can’t help but think, that when this CBA is up in 10 years, or if the Owners/Players opt out of the CBA in 8 years, the fans will be back to this same exact situation; left out in the cold.

Update:

It looks as though some Owners have started to release apologies…better than nothing I suppose.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheDailyTraub

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