I am hockeybuzz's newest blogger, although longtime visitor, and I now am finally coming to the irony of my decision to begin blogging about hockey when the NHL is on the verge of another lockout. Now since I am going to make an attempt to keep my blogs current, I best start with that which is current, which as of now is that one scary word already mentioned..... LOCKOUT (cue the ominous music and lightning bolts).
I woke up this morning, with the day off from work, and decided to enjoy my morning coffee and latest edition of the Hockey News on my deck while taking in the beautiful Saskatchewan morning. I was only one sip and one flip of a page in before I saw mentions of Stanley Cup picks by each of THN's writers. After glancing through the picks, I immediately thought two things: 1. looks like their Stanley Cup Final predictions will involve Vancouver and Pittsburgh, 2. I have yet to really sit down and think about my own predictions for the upcoming season. So after taking my time, and spending little more than an hour mulling over the possible standings by both division and conference (which I will post when the season is officially a go), I stop to think, what if there is another full season lockout?
It has been 7 seasons since the NHL lost an entire season to a lockout, and for hockey fans, the memory is still too fresh. The word, "lockout," now carries such a negative feel and bad memories, and I have fear for the league if they end up losing another full season. Coming out of the nonexistent 2004-05 season, it was not all bad. The modifications to the game made things more exciting than ever, and the league has steadily seen a growth in popularity and profits since. Over those seasons, one team was relocated and Phoenix's situation is still questionable, but we also saw a strong resurgence of traditional American markets in Chicago and Boston, and with the help of star power, Washington and Pittsburgh broke into the group of hockey crazed cities.
All of this improved success for the league has resulted in annually increasing tv ratings and last year, a bigger and better tv deal with NBC. So with such success, can the league afford another lost season? Will the owner's really risk putting their increasing profits at risk?
If another entire season is lost, I do not believe the league will ever fully recover back to the point of success they are currently at. I do believe the owner's know this, and I am calling their bluff. It does, at this point, seem imminent that there will be a lockout of some length, but an entire season I cannot foresee. I understand both sides of the argument, but I see the owner's giving in more than the players to make this deal work. For the sake of teams like Phoenix, the salary cap does need to be re-evaluated in how it increases from year to year. The 2011-12 cap floor, or the minimum a team must spend, was around $48 million, the cap, the MAXIMUM, in 2005-06 was around $39 million. Small market teams cannot be expected to keep up with this, but cutting down the shared player revenue is not the answer either.
The players obviously want to make money, the certainly don't want to make less money, but I doubt players want to be thinking about whether or not their team is making money or if they will be forced to locate. This is where I see the players showing their sympathy (maybe not the choice word?) and make a point of correcting this issue, but only at such a cost. This time around I believe the players have the leverage and I hope, for the future of hockey, that the owners come to this realization and make it work! Then, perhaps, we can get closer to the day where the word "lockout" can be mentioned without the lightning and ominous music.