Posts Tagged ‘Lockout’

The NHL season has entered the Stanley Cup finals stage. At one stage it seemed like there would be another embarrassing engraving on the cup saying that the season was not played because of a work stoppage. The lockout did indeed cast a dark shadow over the world of NHL and boy, did it piss off the fans.


The fans of the NHL and hockey in general vehemently criticized the lockout and pledged never to watch hockey again and that the NHL was dead to them. I put my hand up and admit that I was one of them and those who read the blog regularly will remember some of the bitter posts that I made.


But on one fine day, all was back on and everything in the world of hockey seemed great! The season was shortened into a short sprint rather than a long marathon. And boy what a season we’ve had. Some great games during the regular season have made sure that the fans who were ready to turn to other sports have come flocking back. There have been some great highlights indeed.


To be honest, one could have almost forgotten that the season, started under a lockout. It does seem quite distant. 


I guess that at the end of it all, NHL and the game of hockey has won and persevered what was damaging to the league and the NHL brand. If people needed any further proof that hockey was back with a vengeance, game 1 of the Bruins vs Blackhawks Stanley Cup final drew the highest TV audience for a Game 1 match since 1997. It beat last seasons’ Kings v Devils final opening and man what a game it was. The Stanley Cup has been touted as the toughest trophy to win in all of professional sports and when you play nearly two full games of hockey in one night to obtain a game winner, it certainly speaks volumes of the type of entertainment that was on offer.


Is it all forgive and forget?

Well, no, not really. Were fans are happy to have the league back (yes it is the best hockey league in the world), there is still some repair work needed on the relationship. The fans are still like a jilted lover who will not put up with another bout of nonsense.


There is no doubt that the boos will rain down when Gary Bettman walks on the ice to hand out the Stanley Cup to either Jonathan Toews or Zdeno Chara. That alone should tell everyone that people have not forgotten how disappointed they still are with the lockout. Whilst the new CBA will guarantee some peace for the foreseeable future, the more skeptic fan will be thinking whether or not there is another lockout booming in the horizon of hockey’s future.  



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As the NHL season is finally under wayt, we wanted to visit the dark days of the lockout by chatting to someone who makes his living from the NHL and hockey. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Antti Makinen, a Finnish NHL sports caster for NelonenPro. Makinen has become well known in the Finnish hockey media, mainly due to his active Twitter use and his enthusiastic commentary during games. One of the memorable moments came during the New Jersey Devils – Philadelphia Fylers series, well words wouldn’t do it justice, so you can watch the clip here.


When the lockout first started did Makinen feel like he didn’t have much to worry. “When (the lockout was announced, it didn’t bother me. I was sure it would only last a week or so. After the first couple of weeks, it started to disturb my thoughts.”


At the start of the lockout there was a lot of optimism about the length and many pundits and analysts thought it would be something the league could get sorted out before the season started, or at worst, it wouldn’t affect most of the season.


However, as the lockout continued, Makinen says it started to affect things. “My employer (Nelonen Pro) had to do a lot of rescheduling. NHL is a big thing to our channel and they had their hands full to reschedule. For me personally it was a bit of a 50/50 situation. I had all the time in the world to play with my two year-old son, but on the flipside, the worry was on the finances.”


For a play-by-play professional, the job is similar to a professional athlete. There’s a constant need to keep up with your skills and hone your craft. Makinen didn’t fall on empty for the lockout as he found some sports casting work for Finnish SM-Liiga games. During the SM-Liiga gig, many of Makinen’s Twitter followers regularly tweeted him asking which game he would be calling. “Calling the SM-Liiga games helped me a lot,” Makinen says. “It was a job that helped pay the bills and it also helped mentally as I had something else to think about than the lockout.”


Riding the highs and lows


So for someone whose livelihood depends on the NHL having games what are some of the emotions that you go through? Mid October was probably the toughest for many fans as it was the first time of that infamous ‘cautious optimism’. “I had a couple of rock bottom moments during the lockout,” Makinen admits. “The toughest one was in a middle of October when my own sources told me that the deal is close. Then of course Bettman came out and said that they (NHL and the NHLPA) were speaking different languages.”


But for someone who is active on Twitter and also a fan of the game, Makinen didn’t resort to outbursts that many fans (like myself) resorted to in desperation. “I tried to maintain optimism publicly, but it was really hard,” Makinen says. “I have to that my wife for all her understanding. She really supported me through the lockout.”


However, the end of the lockout meant a big relief to those whose livelihoods depend on the NHL. As Makinen points out he doesn’t have to worry about the summer months as the NHL Play-Offs are likely to go on long into the summer months. “(The season) will be a busy one, but I think it’s a good thing,” Makinen says. “It’s a bit weird to start the season in January as normally this is the hardest part of the season for me. However, our batteries are fully loaded and we are ready to go.”

The world of sports casters


For me personally, the sports caster world and work has always been interesting. It has puzzled me to think how someone can keep up with the changes in a game as fast as hockey. If you ask my parents, they would say that as a child, I was always pretending that I was calling a hockey game, ski jumping event or a rally.


It felt only natural to ask Makinen about his career and how he got into sports casting. “I used to play hockey and I won two Finnish championships in the junior levels,” Makinen says. “I was also a member of the Finnish U17 and U18 team. My career came to an end when I was 18 and I broke my back. After my playing days were done, a manager of a local radio station called me and asked if I wanted to try to work with them on their hockey radio. I had no plans after everything had turned upside down, so I tried and as they say, the rest is history.”


However, Makinen didn’t get to always work on hockey, even though his knowledge of the game. “Hockey has always been my thing, but I had to prove myself in TV before I got to do hockey,” Makinen explains. “I have done colour commentary for football from all over the world, I’ve done Superbikes and a lot of other motorsports. I’ve also called some basketball and floorball games.”




As hockey players, what we wanted to find out was how many games per week Makinen does. According to the man himself, he does five to eight games per week. “I just counted that between 2010 and 2012 I did a total of 407 games,” Makinen says. “I bet no one can match those numbers back here.”


Impressive statistics, given that Finland is seven hours ahead of the Eastern Conference, which means countless of sleepless nights for a man who calls Tampere his home and does many of his games from Helsinki (approximately 70-80 mile trip).


Statistics form an important part for any commentator and Makinen is no exception. His preparation includes looking at stats and stories about past meetings of teams. “When the game is on, it’s just a free-fall to me. It’s my thing to go inside the game and live in the moment.”


As mentioned at the start of the article, Makinen has come up with a few living legends in terms of things said on the air, during a game “They’re just things I’ve said. I’ve never planned what to say and just say what comes to my mind,” Makinen explains. “I think it’s impossible to plan what to say in different games and situations. If you have to worry about what to say and where you say it, it will destroy the broadcast.”


Indeed, a good sports caster can add so much to a game and the experience that the fan receives and where not directly employed by the NHL, sports casters add so much value to the overall product that the NHL sells internationally. Fans who live and breathe their teams’ trials and tribulations already live in every stride of their team, but a sport caster such as Makinen can add enthusiasm and a new level to the game.


Makinen, who lists 2011-2012 first round Penguins vs Flyers series as one of his favourites along with Blackhawks’ cup win as his friend goalie Antti Niemi won the cup, parts us with some of his wisdom to people looking for a career in sport casting and play-by-play commentary. “It’s a long way, so be patient. Give it your best every time you are working and there are no shortcuts. Most importantly, don’t try to be someone else, be yourself and find your own way of doing things.”


Thank you to Antti Makinen for taking part in the interview and good luck with the NHL season and hopefully the fans will enjoy every game televised this year. 



In true spirit of Twitter, and social media promotion, the NHL has taken to promoting the new,  shortened season, with the hashtag and theme of #Hockeyisback, or Hockey is back. It’s latest promotional video has spread through the hockey community like wildfire. Where yes, it is slick and evokes a lot of emotions, I still have a problem (like many others) with the whole hockey is back theme.


You see, hockey never left and the whole hashtag is a bit insulting to other leagues in North America. In north America you had the AHL, ECHL, CHL SPHL and other minor pro leagues that played since September/October time frame, but with what NHL is saying is that those leagues are, well, a bit insignificant and don’t classify as hockey. This is not to mention the whole of Europe, where leagues started in September. You had Finnish, Swedish, German, Swiss, Russian and Czech professional leagues starting their seasons, so in many ways, the only thing that is back is the NHL.


Where yes, I do agree that the NHL is the best hockey league there is, but to assume that it is the be all and end all of hockey is a little bit misguided. The thing is, if the NHL had fallen because of the work dispute, the game of hockey would not have died or gone away. Yes, it is great to have the NHL back, but the whole “Hockey is back” slogan is a little bit arrogant from a league that lost 113 days to one of the most pointless work stoppages in the history of professional sports.


The NHL is in a position where many economists have scrutinised its brand value and given estimates of half a billion dollars lost in brand value, which has left the NHL’s marketing  department to do its best to bring fans back. Where many teams are doing various promos to entice fans to come back to watch hockey, for the league to say that hockey is back is bullish and to a lot of disgruntled fans it is yet another slap in the face.


Where yes, I am excited about the NHL being back, I’m not supportive of the statement that hockey is back. Despite my excitement, I think it would be divine justice if the NHL season would open up to empty arenas across the league, but I doubt that it will happen. Despite how disgruntled the fans were during the lockout, many of them will be back. 

113 Days – NHL Lockout over

Posted: January 6, 2013 in hockey, ice hockey, Sports
Tags: , ,

This morning the NHL an nhlpa have reached a tentative agreement on the CBA, bringing the NHL lockout to an end. There’s still paperwork to be signed.

The sides agreed on salary cap at $63.4million and player contract lengths of 7 and 8 years respectively. The CBA is 10yrs in length with opt out at 8 years, so that will give you an idea of when to next go through this silliness.

So ends 113 days of stupid and the NHL now has a mammoth task ahead of itself of not only dropping the puck, but to deploy a PR and marketing campaign that would fix the damage to the brand.

Word is, first games will be played on 19th Jan and season is going to last 48 games.

Te CBA needs to be ratified by players and owners alike.

As the lockout is on its 88th day at the moment. After the dramatic collapse of the last talks the fans across the globe have grown increasingly apathetic and tired of the lockout. I know I have been critical of the NHL and its approach to the negotiations. As I’m writing this, the two parties are meeting at a secret location (I’m told it is the same hotel in New Jersey that they have been using) and are trying to bring an end to this silly lockout. But in light of the dramatic conclusion of the talks, what have the fans been doing since then? Many have voiced their displeasure through Twitter and Facebook. Despite the unified disappointment from the fans side, to both the lockout and the way the talks have been going, it is safe to say that the fans do care about the game and the league.

There has been fan initiatives, like the Youtube video from Janne Makkonen at the start of the lockout, which has generated over a million views already. The great emotive video drew the attention of the players and hockey fans alike.

Most recently there have been groups created on Facebook like Stop The NHL Lockout, where people have been venting their frustrations and sharing news of the lockout. More recently though groups like NHLNFA, which is aiming to set up a fans’ union and claims that this is the only way to have NHL and NHLPA to listen to the fans. However good the intentions of the NHLNFA are, I can’t help but wonder how or why the NHL and NHLPA should listen to a Fans’ union in anything that has to do with the game.  The site says that its goal is to get to “1 million members and they (NHL and NHLPA) will have choice (sic) but to listen to us. IT’s not fair the fans don’t have a vote that counts at any of the meetings, not only with strikes or lockout but for anything NHL related.” It’s a lofty goal and personally I can’t see the NHL or NHLPA ever agreeing to let a fans union to have decision making power in what essentially is a business. The NHL can surely listen to fans in how to make the product better, but to actually allow them a vote? Can’t see that happening.

The group that I have become a fan of and think that they have a great idea is the Just Drop It group. The idea behind Just Drop It is that for every game the NHL takes away after the 21st of December, fans boycott the league for the equivalent number of games after the lockout comes to an end. The idea goes for attending games at rinks, watching games on TV or buying any NHL apparel. In my personal opinion this is a great movement from the fans who clearly love hockey, but have grown tired of the way the past 18 years and three lockouts have gone down. The group was only established on the 4th of December but has already surpassed 11,000 likes on Facebook. After a slick Youtube video from the group, it has also had serious global mainstream media pick up on the movement and has ultimately done it some good. The video has already been seen by over 38,000 people.

If enough people will do as the pledge says, it would send a clear message to the league that the fans will not tolerate the behaviour that has happened in the past 88 days.

So please, go check out the Facebook page, checkout the video and start spreading the pledge and stick to it. We all want hockey back, I think that’s clear, but at the same time, we don’t want to be taken for another silly ride like this.


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The NHL Lockout talks took a turn for the better yesterday it would seem. Many of the sources following the meetings closely tweeted saying they received texts from players involved in the talks have said that it was the best and most productive day during this whole debacle.

The NHL has entered into crunch time during the lockout. Both sides have admitted that they are fast approaching the point of no return in saving the season and the idea of having the players talk to owners has seemed to have turned the corner. At least based on yesterdays’ meetings there has been an air of cautious optimism about the end of the NHL Lockout.

I missed parts of the happenings as I was on the ice with my team, but I half expected that by the time I got home, I would check my twitter feed and other sources to find that the meetings had concluded after an hour and that the season would most likely be cancelled. Imagine my surprise to find out that the meeting was still on-going and that they had breakout sessions of smaller groups.

With the Board of Governors (BOG) meeting taking place today, there is as good of a chance as ever for both sides to table an offer and discuss it in-depth. Jason Brough of NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk has reported that the players intend to present the owners when the two sides reconvene after the BOG meetings. There has also been rumours on the social media front that Gary Bettman has already put together a schedule for a 60-game regular season. I don’t know whether that schedule has been drawn up prior to these meetings or as a result, but it certainly seems that the closer the threat of cancelling the season comes, the harder the two sides are trying to find common ground. Despite these rumours and the potential presentation from the players, Nick Kypreos has tweeted to say that “important to note with so many optimistic, no new written proposals have been shared yet.”

However, throughout this long-drawn, farcical process the fans’ hopes have been brought up again and again, only to be crushed. However, this time there seems to be a common consensus among people that there is some real progress. The only thing that we are now nervously anticipating is the conclusion of the BOG meeting and wait for news whether or not someone will torpedo the progress from yesterday. As Samuel Savolainen, NHL correspondent for Urheilulehti said in his column, the BOG meeting is the place where someone can add fuel to the flames and if that happens, I think we can pretty much kiss the season goodbye.

Should there not be an NHL-season, it would do irreparable damage to the NHL’s brand, not only in the USA – where a year-long lockout  would most likely render hockey a redundant sport – but worldwide as well.

At the end of the day, whether a deal is reached today or in the coming weeks, the only thing even the most disgruntled fan will care about when the deal is made and when the puck is dropped. Despite the lockout and the whole CBA process has probably changed my view on the NHL forever, I’m still anxiously waiting to hear the outcome of these talks. Maybe I wont follow with the intensity as I have but, I guess time will tell.

Whatever happens, this chapter will enter the NHL history books as probably one of its darkest moments, not only because it is the third lockout, but – as mentioned above – the farcical nature of the negotiations at stages throughout this process

After yesterday’s rant-style post about the NHL Lockout, there is actually some REAL progress about the CBA issues that have forced the NHL into this ridiculous situation. So after a month of lockout, the NHL has tabled a sensible offer to the NHLPA. What the NHL has suggested is a straight 50-50 revenue split between the players, which has been the sensible deal when I’ve been talking this through with friends.


However, according to information that has been coming out of the negotiations is that the NHLPA has about ten days to accept the offer and where there is a part of me that wants to say, just accept the damn offer and get the season started, the NHLPA needs to consider a couple of more aspects that are within the offer.


First off, the season would be a full 82 season schedule, which would mean that there would be an additional game every five weeks or so to make up for the lost time. The rumour is that with this offer the season would start on the second of November.


The other bits that have been leaked so far include the status of Unrestricted Free Agents where players would obtain the UFA status at either age 28 or after 8 seasons accrued in the NHL. Additionally, the latest offer would also include AHL players against a teams’ salary cap. So for example Wade Redden’s $6.5mil contract would be counted in full against the Rangers’ cap.


Where the fan in me is screaming at the NHLPA to take the offer and get it the season started I can see that the UFA status would be a bit of a sticking point to the players. Don Fehr has said that the current offer “is an excellent starting point and there’s a deal to be made,” suggesting that there are things in the offer the NHLPA like and some that they don’t like.


Hopefully there won’t be another ridiculous stoppage in the talks while the NHLPA mull over the offer.