Football dodged a bullet during their collective bargaining agreements. Basketball lost half of its season. Now its hockey’s turn to join the fray in what could arguably be worst lock-out of the three. With two weeks of regular season games canceled, and sides seemingly at a stale mate, the National Hockey League is in jeopardy of canceling the entire season.
Besides Major League Baseball, which canceled the 1994 season, as well as delaying the 1995 season, the NHL could be the first organization to lose two seasons after two consecutive CBA contracts expired. In the 2004-2005 season, the entire season was cancelled, with Lord Stanley’s Cup without a proper suitor. No champion was awarded that season. In 1994-1995, the lockout lasted 104 days, resulting in a 48 game season and the cancellation of the NHL All-Star game. For a sport that can arguably be placed behind the MLB and the NFL, two lockouts could prove detrimental.
Players have already voiced their opinions, as several went overseas to join European leagues, most notably the KHL, the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Evengi Malkin of the Pittsburg Penguins are some of the notable players to switch to the KHL.
While some may view the move as a way to dictate the negations, some players feel that the transition from the NHL to the KHL could be permanent for some players. Bryzgolov, most notable for his knowledge of the universe during the airing of HBO’s 24/7 Flyers and Rangers: The Road to the Winter Classic, said some players will not return to the NHL.
According to cbs.com, Bryzgalov notes, “I think some of the players may not return to the NHL because you have everything here and major companies are going to pay the top players here big money. And, especially for Russians players who can play at home in front of their own fans and families and [earn] even bigger money than they have in the National Hockey League,” said Bryzgalov.
It’s going to be tough for the NHL to stomach players leaving, but the saving grace is the addition of the Winter Classic, an event that would be held Jan. 1 2013 in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines stadium. With over 115,000 seats, it would be the largest venue hosted by the NHL for the newly installed classic. Last years Flyers and Rangers game sat only 45,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park. A hurdle to say the least, hockey fans may be glad to hear that their season could still be saved, even if it is only due to the amount of revenue lost.
By Ryan Beach