NHL Lockout Discussion

I am a huge hockey fan. Growing up in Toronto, when it comes to sports, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the number one show in town. Whether they are good or not, the Leafs always manage to sell out. There are waiting lists for seasons tickets, and the scalpers make a fortune selling tickets on game days. The Leafs suck, but they are the most profitable team in the NHL. With the lockout in full effect, what am I supposed to focus on this winter?

Gary Bettman and the NHL owners have proven to be quite strong. The lockout that cost us the 2004 NHL season created a world of change in the NHL. Based on the owners demands, A hard salary cap was introduced, rule changes were implemented, and the days of buying playoff appearances ended. As it stands now, the Leafs were the only team that did not qualify for the playoffs during the past CBA. Their years of trading away first round picks for over the hill stars cost them their future.

They could not buy talent, and their scouting and player development were near the bottom of the league. The Leaf’s pick in the 2003 draft, widely recognized as the best ever, was in the hands of the San Jose Sharks, courtesy of the trade for Owen Nolan. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Owen Nolan, but I would have rather had an entry level contract for the services of any of Marc Andre Fleury, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zack Parise, Shea Weber, the list goes on and on.

The lockout proved to be successful. When the NHL resumed, the game was in hot demand, especially north of the border. The new rules opened up the scoring, and there was actually parity. Every team but the Leafs qualified for the playoffs, showing that anyone could have a chance at the cup with the hard salary cap in place. The games were fast, exciting, and grew in popularity even in the USA.

As the NHLPA and the NHL sit down on Friday, they are going to be discussing a profit sharing arrangement over the leagues 3.3 Billion net worth. A far cry from the days when the league barely made a billion. The NHL is now strong, and the profits will only increase as the product gets better. Everyone can complain about the owners steadfast resolve in not caving to the players demands, but the proof is in the pudding. The product has only gotten better, and the league has only gotten stronger.

By allowing small market teams to compete, you draw in fans in new places no one would think of. Nashville is a perennial contender, and their success allowed them to keep Shea Weber, one of the best players in the world. Had the previous CBA not been in effect, I be Weber would be suiting up for the Flyers or another big market team this year.

As a fan I want to see hockey resume asap. I want to see the Leafs finally break their streak of futility and qualify for the post season. Most of all, I want to see hockey again. Bettman and the owners did a good job of creating a competitive balance in the NHL, all while still giving stars their big pay days and the crowds an exciting brand of hockey. Let the talks resume so the games can begin!