This just in from the NHL-NHLPA labor front: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 1, 2012
Several months ago hockey fans were loudly counting down the months until October, longing for their beloved game of hockey to return. The Cup had been hoisted and a summer lacking ice was fully in front of us. October seemed a distant way off but we all assumed, and hoped, hockey would return with it. Surely the owners and players wouldn't be foolish enough to cancel NHL games again, right?
Fans long for the day of the unbridled enthusiasm that persisted throughout the summer. An incalculable number of Tweets and Facebook posts were tagged with the phrase "Wish it was October" or "Is it October yet?".
October has arrived but sadly you won't see many hockey fans celebrating. Where Tweets of "Finally! October!" and "October is here and so too is hockey" should be instead we find sad Tweets about the NHL staff officially being rolled back to 80% pay and 4-day work weeks. Instead of prognosticating how each team will do in 2012-13, we're tracking the players that took their talents around the globe while they wait for a new agreement.
Though things look pretty bleak, hope isn't totally lost. The league has canceled the entirety of the preseason but so far (knock on wood) no games that count have been cut. That statement could change in a hurry - like this week - but to date, 2012-13 is still on the table. Also, the two sides are still talking. That may not sound like much but in the past we have seen both sides table negotiations for extended periods, crushing any possibility of a deal being reached.
There's also slight optimism, and I mean slight, that a full 82-game season could still be played even if the league cancels some regular season games. Unfortunately, this thought is mostly a pipe dream as opposed to being cemented in reality. It's possible that the league could stretch out a bit more into spring but it's tough to imagine the NHL being able to pull this off in the event a significant chunk of games are axed.
The sought after month of October could soon turn very dark for NHL fans. Thankfully, the AHL, junior leagues and college leagues will be resuming as scheduled. Go out and support your club's AHL affiliate and reclaim your enthusiasm for the month of October.
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I actually ran my errands in jersey today, it being about sixty degrees, breezy, and cloudy, and wound up striking up a conversation with a fellow fan still hoping that the game will be played at the highest professional level this year. Meanwhile, I've tracked down the radio stream for the Blues AHL affiliate - it's normally a country music station, which I suppose isn't really any stranger than a News/Talk station, when you think about it - and done some preliminary research on attending games at the AHL and ECHL affiliates. I'll get my hockey, one way or another, as far as I'm concerned.
Of course, reading about the financials, and seeing the number -20,000,000 floating around (Blues operating losses last season), and the continued belief that the players aren't going to accept further salary reductions, I'm fairly convinced that the season is now done for. Sure, I worry about the Blues because they're my boys, but they're hardly the only team in the league in that kind of financial position. The way the current CBA is written, there's no way that teams not stationed in the largest of large markets, or at least sitting on veritable printing presses of hockey-loving money (Toronto, Montreal), are going to be viable long-term - the percentages are just eating the rest away. Even then, there simply isn't enough money available to make revenue sharing to roughly two thirds of the league viable, if the numbers we've been shown are remotely close to the truth. A second national TV contract might help close that gap (depending on how exclusive the NBC/SN contract is, research I haven't done), but the league shooting itself in the foot and killing off casual attendance for the next few years isn't the way to get that accomplished.
Excitement? Sure, I've got it in spades. But as long as this ultimately futile standoff continues, I'll have to find other venues to show it. And unfortunately, I'm expecting that to be the case for the duration of the scheduled season, at this point; or, rather, the duration of the soon-to-be-cancelled-in-two-week-chunks season.
@miendiem Speaking of TV contracts, the NHL won't be making any friends over at NBC/NBC Sports if the lockout endures. Their broadcast contract guarantees that the NHL receives $200 million regardless of whether any games or played. Pretty nice spot for the NHL to be in but I don't think you'd want to make any broadcast enemies at a time when you'd be trying to win back fans.
@David Rogers That's what I've read, and I'd buy that read on it. Both sides of this really aren't doing themselves any favors in the short to medium term.