Right at the beginning I’d like to note that this post is purely speculative. As of yet the NHL season 2012-2013 has not been cancelled.
However, as more time has gone by, personally, I have started to lose faith that we will see an NHL season this year. There are rife rumours suggesting that the Winter Classic will be cancelled and that the cancellation clause was in the contract for the lease of the arena for the event. Losing the Winter Classic would be a huge blow for the NHL in terms of the much talked about Hockey Related Revenue (HRR). The Winter Classic has become a marquee event for the NHL and has drawn huge crowds and has become – in its short history – a new years tradition for many hockey fans across the globe. Along with the event itself, would follow the cancellation of HBO’s hugely popular 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic fly-on-the-wall TV show, which has given unprecedented access and views behind the scenes of a professional hockey team.
So why would the NHL cancel the Winter Classic and why is that the beginning of the end? Reason for the cancelation rumours comes from the lack of negotiations between the two parties. The NHLPA says it has tried to setup negotiations with the NHL, but the NHL has denied these requests due to there “being no need to meet for meeting’s sake.”
It has now been a couple of weeks since the NHL flatly refused the NHLPA’s suggestions of a contract, without negotiating them. Though I’m not saying the NHLPA is blameless in this, instead of trying to negotiate with the NHL on the contract it put forward, it didn’t make additions or amendments to it, but effectively rejected the offer by putting together its own offers.
The hardball tactics deployed by the NHL have driven a wedge between the NHL and the NHLPA players’ association that may take years to fix and could even hinder the following CBA negotiations, that is if we ever get this mess sorted out. As much a the commissioner is a despised character, he is sticking to his guns and making sure that the owners get the deal they want.
The reason why I am starting to think that we will not see a 2012-2013 NHL season is because there seems to be no progress in negotiations and that the two sides seem reluctant to actually to get a deal in place. The NHL is acting like the fans will come back and that the revenues will continue to grow as they have in the past few years. But the fact is that the longer the lockout goes on, the less likely it is that the revenues will go back to the record levels they were at for the start of this season.
Why do I think that the revenues might not go back to the levels they have been since the previous lockout? Well let’s see: After the last lockout we came back to a hugely revolutionised NHL. There was the salary cap, there were rule changes, the game had become more open and more exciting to watch. That combined with the fact that there were young stars like Crosby, Ovechkin et al who made their debuts in the NHL (and what debuts they were), that made the league electrifying and brought fans back. However, this time, what will we see from the lockout? Nothing. We wold be coming back to the same product, but this time the fan base is more disgruntled than it was the first time around. To me it would suggest that the revenues might not be as high as the owners and the league anticipates.
So far the fans have taken to the Internet to vent their frustration, but the way the whole lockout has been handled, it wouldn’t surprise me that the fans would come back in droves, like we did the last time. All the fans still love hockey, but they might show the league and the teams that they will not put up with the way things have been done as/when/if the NHL ever returns.
Both the parties, the players, the NHL, the NHLPA need to set their egos aside if they want a deal done. There is too much leeway in these negotiations (OK I can understand the break for the past few days due to Hurricane Sandy). The NHL has taken three hits on its shield with the lockout and it might be that this lockout is the most severe yet. The fans are really disgruntled right now and if the NHL returns for 2013-2014 with another 6 year CBA, which results in a lockout, it would be the death of the league that has been followed and adored by millions.
So my challenge to the NHL and NHLPA is, prove me wrong, I dare ya.