The puck stops here
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 12:09
July 4th was truly special for me this year. It wasn’t because Joey Chestnut ate 68 hot dogs in 12 minutes, or the fact the Twins were only nine games back in the Central Division, but because the Minnesota Wild had finally made their move. They signed all-stars Zach Praise and Ryan Suter to monumental contracts that literally made every other Minnesota professional sports owner wet their pants.
It was supposed to be a magical winter for the Minnesota Wild. A winter so magical it had me staking out my spot right in front of Cossetta’s in August for the ensuing Stanley Cup victory parade in June. But as luck would have it, the magical winter will have to wait.
As of 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning, the NHL lockout had officially begun. The league’s second in less than a decade and its fourth in 20 years.
The work stoppage can be blamed on the NHL Players Association and the league’s owners and commissioner, Gary Bettman, for refusing to agree on how to share the increasing $3.3 billion revenue pool. Currently, the players are receiving a 57 percent of the shares, but the owners would like to see it closer to 50 percent. This would seem to make more sense considering other professional leagues in the U.S. have similar deals under their CBA.
Both NFL and NBA lockouts were caused by a disagreement with revenue sharing before both decided to split shares 50-50 and 47-53, respectively.
The difference with the NHL is that the players are unwilling to budge and seem not to care if the season is lost. I believe it all starts at the top with the misguided leadership of NHLPA executive director, Donald Fehr. This is the same guy that led the MLB to its player strike in 1994, cutting the season short as it ended without crowning a World Series champ.
It is difficult to believe how devastating this was to the league being a preschooler at the time, but the MLB really lost its mojo. Fans felt betrayed that the players they pay to see would stop mid-season because they wanted more money. Confirming the bias that all athletes care about is money was at the forefront for years to come. This can be shown with decrease in fan attendance in the mid-to-late 90s. If it weren’t for alleged cheaters like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the MLB could still be in the recovery process.
This could be a potential problem for the NHL too if they don’t get their business in order. Not only will they lose fans, the players might jeopardize their health by playing somewhere else.
Like the NBA, players in the NHL are now in the process of finding teams to sign with in other leagues around the world. Reportedly, this process has already begun with stars Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburg Penguins and Ottawa Senators defensemen Sergei Gonchar signing with the Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Russian-based KHL. Other NHL teams are doing the smart thing and sending down their future stars to their AHL affiliate, the minor league of professional hockey.
As much as we love our sports, our teams and our players, we have to be reminded that it’s all a business. But when does the business aspect become more influential than the game itself? Hockey fans, I encourage you all to remain patient during this lockout process but when is enough, enough?
As for myself, I will remain critical of the league and its players until that first puck drops.