Lockouts have no place in NHL culture

It wouldn’t be professional sports without some sort of lockout.

In the aftermath of a potential NFL lockout during last year, and an NBA lockout that shortened the season to only 66 games, the National Hockey League has decided to once again join the party.

The last NHL lockout took place more than seven years ago during the 2004-2005 season, and it began the day the collective bargaining agreement from the 1994-1995 lockout ended. Go figure.

Thus, today in 2012, the year that the 2004-2005 collective bargaining agreement ended, there is yet another strike. I mean, these guys really need to make their money right? The previous average salary had been a measly $2.4 million. The minimum salary was $525,000 last season—practically nothing. These guys certainly deserved to make more. Therefore they would speak their minds and strike, just like they do every other time. Now this is not to say that ownership is in the right and is not corrupt, but is it really to the point where it is necessary to sacrifice an entire season?

The latest development is that games for the 2012-2013 season in the NHL have been canceled through Dec. 30. Forty-three percent of the season has already been canceled, and that is including the all-star game and 526 regularly scheduled season games. As stated ad nauseam in regards to lockouts, the real victim here is neither the players nor the owners, but the fans. Sports have become such an institution and business that they are beginning to have guaranteed lockouts every time collective bargaining agreements run out.

It is as if lockouts are now part of the culture of the games themselves. This goes back to the ethics of sports in general. Sadly, playing “for the love of the game” seems to no longer even be a plausible reason. People often get laughed at rather than lauded for questioning why players don’t play for the love of the game. And honestly, from a certain perspective, who can blame them?

If I were making millions I would certainly be concerned with more than just the “love of the game.” The question here lies with how far these players would go to secure that extra $500,000 when they are already multi-millionaires. Are they simply fighting against the evil ownership? Is this more about principle of contract than the physical money itself?

The season was originally slated to begin on Oct. 11, 2012. Commissioner Gary Bettman declared a lockout after a new agreement could not be made. What exactly did the owners want to do?

They wanted to reduce the 57% of the share of hockey-related revenues guaranteed to the players, along with changing free agency, creating term limits on contracts and ultimately eliminating salary arbitrations. Bettman and the owners seem to only be hurting themselves at this point in time. The amount of money the league is losing due to a lack of games and promotions is quite a hefty price to pay in exchange for new contract negotiations.

Bettman stated to ESPN that, “The business is probably losing between $18 and $20 million a day and the players are losing between $8 and $10 million a day.” Employee pay was also cut by 20 percent. To make matters worse, some teams flat out fired their employees. These sports strikes seem to heighten the effects of not being able to reach a consensus to the max. You do the math.
There have been two months and twenty days completely canceled. Does the NHL wasting an opportunity for billions make any sense?

The league may also be sacrificing some of its fan base due to these multiple strikes. Many fans may not agree with this heaving business like influence over the league. The Purists may dismiss the NHL for putting more focus on money than actually just playing the game. Who would want to support a league that doesn’t have a season every four or five years simply because its players want to make $4.6 million rather than $4.4 million. Speaking of these players, what are they going to do?

At the moment there are various places these NHL players can go to continue to keep up with their hockey skills. A variety of European leagues are available at the moment, allowing players to either return home to or travel to Russia, Finland, Germany, etc. The younger guys can also opt to stay here and play in the AHL (American Hockey League) or even junior hockey if they are young enough.

Is there hope?

It is true that the 13 games on New Year’s Eve have not yet been canceled. The NBA lockout last year lasted just short of Christmas, proving that there is indeed a chance for this season to still be played, at least partially. In fact, there is still a strong possibility for a 57-game season if a deal is reached soon and games begin around Jan. 1. This may very well not be the last NHL lockout, but let’s just hope that next time, their agreement lasts at least ten years.

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