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Will There Be an NHL Season After the Lockout?

Gary Bettman (Photo courtesy of Mary Altaffer, AP Photo)

As we approach the 70th day of the NHL lockout fans are getting antsy, players are getting angry, and Gary Bettman is more hated than ever. With over 400 games cancelled (including the Winter Classic and All-Star game), fans can’t help but wonder when hockey will be back. The way things are looking now, a 2012-13 season doesn’t seem very likely. So we have to wonder, if the season is lost, what will happen to the NHL? Will they be able to bounce back from this nightmare they call a lockout? And when it comes down to it, who do we point the finger at for causing all of this?

If the NHL and NHLPA figure it out, who wins?

Regardless of when this lockout ends, I think the NHL will end up on top.

When it comes to the revenues, I think the players will get the short end of the stick. The players initially rejected the NHL’s 50-50 revenue split offer, but have now since changed their mind. On Wednesday, the Player’s Association came up with a new proposal which included them offering to accept the 50-50 split. The players are trying to find some common ground for both sides to agree upon, while the NHL is sitting back and waiting for the players to say what they want to hear. If the NHL doesn’t accept the NHLPA’s offer to accept, then I think the players are going to end up getting less revenue than they should.

In terms of free agency eligibility, I think the NHL is being fairly reasonable. In the old deal, a player became a free agent if they played for 7 years or were 27 years old. The NHL’s initial offer upped everything a year so players would become free agents after 8 years of playing, or when they’re 28 years old. A year is a long time and a lot can happen, but I think this is the best offer the players are going to get in terms of free agency. Salary arbitration eligibility is the same deal, as the NHL offered to move it from 4 years to 5. In the grand scheme of things, the NHLPA probably isn’t going to get a better offer.

These are just a few points that are being disputed, but given the way negotiations have been going, these are the player’s best options. The NHL doesn’t seem to want to change their offer, so they are waiting for the players to concede to their plan. We’ll see how that works out.

Will there even be a season?

As simple as the explanation above sounds, I still don’t think a season is likely. Nobody can agree on anything. The players are trying to make something happen, while the NHL is standing their ground. It’s not exactly a mixture that makes for great results. Bettman’s idea about a ‘cooling off break’ isn’t exactly speeding up the process either.

Can the NHL recover if the season is lost?

I have no doubt that if the season is lost, big teams will have no problem recovering, but it’s a different story for small teams. For large franchises like the Bruins, there’s no doubt that they will be able to recover. Once hockey is back, I am confident that the Garden will be filled to capacity as usual. Sure, we may lose some band-wagoner’s, but for the most part Boston tends to have an unwavering devotion to its sports teams. Given our well-seasoned players, I think we could miss a season and come out just fine. I think it’s the smaller teams who don’t have a large fan base and the experienced players who are going to take the hit. A small franchise such as the Avalanche might struggle to turn a profit again after missing a season. Since the Avalanche is a fairly young team, its players miss out on a whole season’s worth of experience. The recovery for these small teams will be much more long term than they will for the larger teams in the NHL.

In the end, who do we blame?

There is one man that we all love to hate. Good ole’ Gary.

It’s tough to find someone who likes Gary Bettman. Amongst all of these talks, it seems like Bettman is shooting down any new ideas. It’s his way or the highway. Everywhere you look there’s another player proclaiming their hatred for Gary Bettman. I could blame this on the NHLPA for not agreeing to the NHL’s initial proposal, but then I have to think, since Gary Bettman has been NHL commissioner, there have been 3 lockouts. I guess when it comes to this lockout, I can’t entirely blame Bettman because it does take two to tango, but overall I do blame Bettman for his toxic effect on hockey.

So, for now all we can do is wait. Maybe an agreement will be reached; maybe the season will be canceled. Or maybe someone will slap some sense into Gary Bettman.

 

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