Did we see the chance of NHL hockey before January disappear this week?
With the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) hitting an impasse last week, neither the union (NHLPA) nor owners saw fit to schedule new talks. Friday, October 26 the NHL made any hockey in 2012 unlikely.
In addition to the cancellation of all November games, the NHL had to accept that a full season was no longer possible. The San Jose Sharks lost 12 more games and have now lost enough of their season to need to refund even those season ticket holders whose payments the Sharks froze at 70 percent, according to David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News.
But that was not enough for commissioner Gary Bettman or his chief henchman Bill Daly. They had to pull their offer of a 50-50 split of hockey related revenue (HRR) off the table. They barely acknowledged the three counteroffers from the NHLPA.
Players can just go play with many of their fellow union members overseas. Businesses that rely on the attraction are left with huge voids to fill in an already struggling economy. Pollack noted that restaurants, bars…even the local farmer’s market are affected by the additional home game crowd.
At this point there is little reason for optimism that a new CBA is around the corner. The NHLPA demands current contracts be paid out in full. Owners want money for that to come out of future contracts as they also defer portions of current salaries.
The cooperative tone of July has given way to both claiming they are the only willing party at the negotiating table—like the following from NHLPA chief Donald Fehr:
“The message from the owners seems to be: If you don’t give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking. They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate.”
The NHL already lost its first nationally televised game, a matinee between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins the day after Thanksgiving. Now ESPN reported Monday, October 29 that the Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings is getting the ax because putting it on is a more extensive undertaking.
(Notice the league’s obsession with not only Eastern Time Zone but Original Six teams for their marquee events; it is not just Canada that Bettman neglects…)
If they are willing to let their most important televised games go, what is the chance that they will pay for lesser games at the same time of year? The next biggest void they can fill is to be there as more and more NFL fans lose their rooting interests.