By Keysha Hogan
Fans of the NHL faced two grave dangers this week. First, there was a chance team owners and players would continue their stalemate and the season would be cancelled. Second, the Harlem Globetrotters agreed to strap on custom skates and hockey helmets for a basketball game on ice to ease the pain of distraught fans. Lucky for you, disaster was averted and a shortened season is on its way, but unfortunately that Globetrotter game was allowed to transpire and we shall never speak of it again.
Over the past weekend, negotiations thawed between the NHL owners and the Players’ Association just long enough to ensure a portion of the season would be saved. The last time hockey returned from a lockout was back in July 2005. This allowed the NHL three long months to get reacquainted with fans and make the hard sell to get them back in the seats. A full season had already been lost, and the new deal included language that encouraged players to play nice with the media.
NHL’s attempts to mend fences worked then, but will they work again? Instead of a few months, teams only have a few weeks to rekindle the romance and lure fans into the stands. Season ticket holders are a safe bet, but the people who can only afford single game tickets or watching the game at home may have moved on.
The real question the NHL needs to ask is, “was it worth it?” After 113 days and 480 cancelled games, was the almost $1 billion in lost revenue worth the headaches? In the agreement players won the right to roughly $300 million in transition payments, which push their share of the revenues over 50%. They also will enjoy a pension plan for the first time in league history. And considering how violent the game can be they should have solidified a more robust retirement agreement a few lockouts ago.
The good news is that either side until the end of the 2019-2020 season cannot dispute this deal. In the upcoming years it’s going to take both sides working together to build up the sport as they should. We’ve all heard the posturing and call for a partnership and compromise. But much like our government, we haven’t seen much action. It’s a clear case of dependent interests meeting conflicting agendas. When people look back at this deal, they won’t be impressed with the money that was spent nor saved on either side. History will judge this deal by how long they were able to keep the peace.
The NHL is poised to finish this short season out strong and enter into 2014 as fierce competitors in the Sochi Olympics. The momentum of these events could be all it takes to properly re-launch the sport as a mainstay. And even though the league stays on thin ice with fans, locals here are dusting off those Stars jerseys and planning to be at the opening game to offer a warm welcome back.