Unless the players union or the team owners call a time out in the next few days, it seems the boys of winter will be back on the ice to finish out a compact NHL season.
And while we’re glad to see that the NHL Players’ Association and league officials finally hammered out a tentative deal to end the 113-day NHL lockout on Sunday morning, the lengthy ordeal has come at a rather hefty cost.
And we’re not just talking about lost revenues either — although that’s certainly part of it.
As The Canadian Press reported yesterday, the lockout ended up costing the league 510 regular-season games, plus the all-star game in Columbus. But after coming off seven years of record revenues after the last collective bargaining agreement expired, the drawn-out negotiation process has angered many hockey fans who questioned why millionaires and billionaires couldn’t find a way to play nice with each other.
For Manitobans who were overjoyed to have their Winnipeg Jets back last year, the lockout has been a huge disappointment. Luckily for Westman hockey fans, Brandon’s Wheat Kings have provided some measure of on-ice relief. Though admittedly the team’s season has been less than stellar, at least they’ve been playing.
Extended strikes and lockouts are never good for organizations or employees that rely on reputation and public use and support for their continued existence. At some point an irate public loses interest.
Though fan support rebounded in the years following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, hockey fans have been much more vocal in their disappointment this time.
And while we believe hockey-mad Canadians will eventually go on supporting Canadian teams — as will U.S. fans in places like Minnesota, Boston and a handful of others — the lockout may have doomed southern U.S. markets that were already in financial trouble.
And that’s not good for the health of the NHL, as it competes for the attention of American sports fans with the likes of the NFL, MLB, NBA and the NCAA.
For those of us still paying attention, we can only hope this is the last of any major contract disputes for quite some time.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 7, 2013