To hell with them...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

To hell with them...

...and the pucks that aren't going to be dropped anytime soon, per Thursday's announcement...

NHL announces cancellation of 2012-13 regular-season schedule through November 30

It's pro sports, but it's still labor (players) v. man­agement (owners), each with its own version of the issues.

I've been a fan for 61 years, since there were only six teams in the National Hockey League.

Along the way, starting in 1967, there was a series of ex­pansions, contractions and relocations until there are now 30 NHL franchise, 23 in the United States and seven in Canada where it is considered the national sport1.

The NHL was struck with a crippling, almost mortal, blow when, after a 10 day strike in 1992 necessitating the rescheduling of affected games, and a lockout at the start of the 1994–95 season which caused a reduction of the schedule from 84 games to 48, the league lost the entire 2004-2005 season due to a 310 day owners' lockout.

When that dispute was finally resolved and the 2005-2006 season began, attendance at games actually increased, but the NHL was without a television contract2 as cable ESPN voided the last two years of its contract with the NHL within hours of the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season.

In what was clearly a buyers' market, the league hooked on with cable channel Versus3, plus broadcast NBC to televise a select Sunday afternoon game after the National Football League season had concluded.

Ice hockey aficionados attended games, but that canceled season hurt the NHL with TV audiences, and it's been a long hard haul to get the numbers trending upward again.

Now, with the entire NHL pre-season and the first two months canceled, the league is in trouble.

NBC which has clearly been experiencing programming difficulties across the board, may have the resources to wait this one out, but may demand to renegotiate its 10-year, $2 billion deal which would be a significant hit to the NHL.

And a large number of players won't be sleeping on their brothers-in-law's couches, biting their nails, and living on dog food... professional hockey is healthy in Europe, and there are daily reports of NHL stars signing contracts to play in Russia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and others.

As much as I love the game and my Red Wings (who weren't destined for a very good year following a pro sports record of 21 consecutive seasons making the playoffs), I'm irritated and aggrieved by the current situation.

(And I imagine that New York Rangers' fans are posi­tively crazed, their team being early favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year.)

But this work stoppage/lock-out is stupid and while the league will doubtless survive, it will take the NHL a long time to regain what it's losing.

  1. A designation it officially shares, since 1994, with lacrosse.
  2. Over the decades, beside ESPN the NHL has had TV arrangements with CBS, SportsChannel America, USA Network, Fox and ABC. None were that lucrative to the league, but were deemed critical to the growth of the sport in the United States.
  3. Fortunately for the NHL, Versus (née 1995 as Outdoor Life Network), became NBC Sports Network in January of this year.


1. Hampton West said...

Absolutely moronic and pathetic. After a year of record revenues, attendance and TV ratings - what do they do? Essentially self-destruct.

As much as I love the game, and my 60+ year devotion to the Red Wings... I'm somewhat ambivalent about this season. I'm disappointed, of course, as I won't be able to watch Pavel Datsyuk throw his remarkable moves on opposing defensemen and goalers, but this stoppage is on the NHL Players Association, not those "greedy owners."

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