Here We Go Again: Another NHL Lockout
The worst part of being an addict is the lack of a fix.
I’m an NHL addict. I read NHL blogs, listen to NHL podcasts, follow NHL writers and players on Twitter, and even had a brief writing gig for a hockey blog (a weekly column about fantasy hockey). Heck, I even had a weekly talk show about the NHL during my tenure as a college radio host. Hockey has been a subject of a few of my comic strips on Clattertron, and will be featured in more to come.
To further beat a dead horse, when I was asked to be a part of the Capital Area District Libraries’ Geek the Library campaign, my fliers and such proudly proclaimed, “I Geek Hockey.”
Suffice to say, the current NHL Lockout, the third of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s career, is a blockade around my supply. I’m an addict without a fix.
And I hate every second. Hate is a strong word, and I try not to over use it, but it applies here. I hate the lockout.
I am still bitter about the loss of the 2004-2005 season due to the previous lockout. Several players I grew up watching missed a chance for one more season. It also meant a year without my favorite few months — The Stanley Cup Playoffs. No battles against rivals, no stories about a team chasing a cup, no chance of a team finally winning its first Cup or ending a decades long drought. For the first time since 1919, no Stanley Cup was awarded.
But, like an old girlfriend I can’t walk away from, I took the NHL back with open arms when it returned. I’m an addict after all. What was I going to do, start following football?
Not likely. I can’t stand football, basketball, or baseball. Anything with the “ball” suffix is right out — with the exception of Whirlyball.
First things first: this is not a strike. This is a lockout.
A strike is when the players refuse to play. That is not the case here. The players were locked out (not able to legally play) by the owners because their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired, and a new CBA has not been agreed upon.
The previous CBA gave the NHL the salary cap, for better or worse (which is worthy of its own article). And with the salary cap came the insane cap circumventing contracts with a length of ten years or more (the final years of these long contracts have players earning about a million a year, with some contracts lasting until a player was 40 or older — this brings the yearly cap hit down). Most players are lucky to make it to 40, let alone 42 or 43 when a few notable contracts expire). The New Jersey Devils were penalized when the league deemed their 17-year, $102 million(!) contract with Ilya Kovalchuk circumvented the salary cap. He was eventually signed for 15-years and $100 million.
I won’t go into the many, many issues behind this lockout. I recommend checking out the Marek versus Wyshynski podcast, because they explain the issues better than I ever could. A recent episode had an interview with NHLPA member (and retired player) Mathieu Schneider.
What this lockout will bring, I cannot say. When it will end is anyone’s guess. If, IF, this season is saved, I have heard the magic date of late November. This would mean the NHL’s biggest cash cow, the Winter Classic, would still happen.
As much as I want to see, or attend, an outdoor game featuring the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs (at the University of Michigan’s Big House no less), I am not optimistic it will happen.
Both sides seem far apart in this lockout, and I have read anecdotal comments from players expecting this lockout to, once again, last all season. NHL players have been heading off to play in Europe this week (most notably, Russia’s KHL), which hints this lockout could last a while.
I hope not.
Those really hurt by this lockout are the support staff — the folks who work at the arena. There have been a slew of layoffs around the NHL already, and there are likely more to come.
Please, don’t let there be another lost season. One game missed it too many. I need my fix. And I don’t want to resort to fantasy baseball again, like I did last time (I had no idea what I was doing, which the same scenario when I attend a baseball game in person — I’m lost, except for the drinking beer outside part. I have that covered).
If you prefer lockout rambling with a dash of humor, check out my What an NHL Fan Can Do During the Lockout post.