Now that the NHL lockout has been in effect since Sept. 16 at midnight, the owners and the NHLPA have made no progress and have barely negotiated. They can not agree on how to disseminate $3 billion in hockey revenues, as the owners want to reduce the players guaranteed share of 57% to 47%.
But as the stalemate continues, once again the diehard NHL fans are the one’s that suffer the most. The hockey fan is more cult-like than any other sport. In most cities there is a small section that follows the NHL religiously and get offended by those who don’t quite understand what ‘icing the puck’ means.
Personally, I think hockey, in general is a great game that composes the hard-hitting of football and the speed and fast-break excitement of basketball. But what I hear the most about the NHL when I watch it with a casual viewer, is that they can’t locate the puck. The league tried to assist in this effort by introducing the FoxTrax glowing puck, when the Fox television network broadcasted games in 1996-98. It made the puck easy to see, but hockey purist objected to its use. Some don’t understand the rules and find without the broadcast graphics seen in the NFL and Major League Baseball games that virtually describe what’s going on by glancing at the screen, it takes away from the NHL appeal.
Another reason that there’s no hurry on the player’s part to end the lockout, is that the players have options to play an earn money elsewhere. Opportunities in Europe abound with the KHL in Russia, being the most prominent. There are about 18 other European leagues for them to keep in shape and compete until this latest labor dispute is settled. Which makes it more palpable for the players is that a lot of them are natives and can make as much as 65% of the NHL salaries…a caveat other professional leagues don’t offer.
The NHL owners and it’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, have to be concerned about the leagues stars playing overseas and possibly risking injury. How would Flyers fans feel if Claude Giroux or any team’s key players were to sustain a long-term injury while playing abroad. That would further alienate those fans that are on the fence on whether they consider the NHL a ‘real’ major sports league or just a game with a niche, cult-like following.
Nonetheless, games are being lost and possibly the jobs of those who work for the league and it’s franchises as well. Bottom line is they better figure it out fast because the NHL can not afford another lost season..if so, it may never be taken seriously.