With the National Hockey League lockout approaching Day 73 both sides, the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association, have agreed to have to use federal mediators to help hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and end the lockout. The CBA, between the NHL and NHLPA, expired on September 16 and as a result the NHL has locked out its players.
“The NHLPA has agreed to the addition of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to our ongoing negotiations,” Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director said in a recent release. “We look forward to their involvement as we continue working to reach an equitable agreement for both the players and the owners.”
The CBA between the NHL and NHLPA expired on September 16 and as a result the NHL has locked out its players. To date, 422 regular season games have been canceled. The cancellation of games also includes the Winter Classic, scheduled for January 1, 2013, and the NHL All Star Weekend, which was originally scheduled for January 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio.
Any and all negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA have failed and hopefully FMCS can aid in bringing an amicable solution for both sides and bring closure to this most recent lockout. But this recent lockout is nothing new. Since 1993, when current NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took office, there have been three lockouts, including the recent one.
In 1994, a 104-day lockout forced the shortening of the regular season from 82-games to 48. Ten years later the entire 2004-05 season was lost due to expiration of the CBA and ensuing player lockout. Due to the 2004-05 lockout the Stanley Cup was not awarded for the first time since 1919.
“We are able to confirm that we have agreed to a request by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to engage in meetings with the Union that will involve the participation of Federal Mediators,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a recent release. “While we have no particular level of expectation going into this process, we welcome a new approach in trying to reach a resolution of the ongoing labor dispute at the earliest possible date.”
One must wonder if the lockout is resolved and the NHL finally kickoffs with a shortened season, similar to 1994, will the people come back? I have lived in Phoenix for the past seven years and I know very few Coyotes fans amongst my friends and/or coworkers. In my travels to Jobing.com Arena I have seen one sell out crowd and it was the home opener and the Detroit Red Wings made a trip to the Valley. My estimate could be a bit fuzzy but I think a majority of the fans that night were rooting for Hockeytown, USA.
For the most part my trips to see the Coyotes in their den have been with sparse crowds and a lot of fans rooting for the opposition. Last season, whilst taking in a Coyotes vs. Colorado Avalanche game, I got my own row of seats to relax in.
But those sparse crowds and the fans occasional propensity to root for the other guys went away when the Coyotes got hot this past season. They won the Pacific Division crown and made a run to the Western Conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Jobing.com Arena was filled and the Coyotes were the Valley’s hot ticket. My coworkers had the Coyotes on their mind and even after being knocked out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings you got the feeling that the community had embraced the team and made a lot of hockey fans in this southwest desert town.
But alas, those good feelings and overall positive vibes from the Coyotes community are likely gone because of this extended lockout. If this season had started on time, and the Coyotes continued their winning ways, they would have been the talk of the Valley in sports section. Their main competitors in Fall and Winter sports , the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals, are both playing in a manner that is less than stellar. As of this writing the Sun are 7-8 and the Cardinals are riding a seven-game losing streak and have an overall record of 4-7.
I am optimistic that we will see the NHL in action this season. Maybe not soon but eventually. Marvin Miller recently passed away and I assume that he is very pleased with Donald Fehr and the NHLPA. I’m not taking sides in the recent lockout. I just want the NHL back. In the last few weeks I have watched, or re-watched excessively, HBO’s 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic.
At the very least, this recent lockout reaffirmed the notion to me that sports are cash cows and that the fans might not be the main focus of the owners and/or the players. I’ve always known that the ledger and fiscal realities are the main facets of sports in a free economy. To paraphrase Ken Dryden and Roy MacGregor, I like watching sports on a big, bright stage and it takes money to underwrite those endeavors.
Business and sport seem a contradictory mix. Sport is pure and guileless, at least in our collective imagination. It is play and childhood and cold winter days on frozen pastoral ponds. It has its own code of behavior, one that is higher and more idealistic than real life expects. Sports seems specifically intended to exist separate from the rough and tumble of life where business is so squarely situated. The fact is, of course, without business, sports would still be on sandlots, in backyards, and on ponds, with very few players and even fewer spectators. It is business that has promoted and popularized sport and created its mass appeal. – “Home Game: Hockey and Life in Canada” by Ken Dryden and Roy McGregor