This lockout is a farce. There are two reasons for this. Collectively, you’d be hard pressed to find 30 worse businessmen who somehow remain mega rich is the first. The second is that for these folks the world is not enough. As a whole the league has grown its revenue hand over fist for the last seven years. Some teams are struggling now that were struggling the last time there was a lockout. Mostly these are the teams in non traditional markets who have never been run well enough to win. In the last twenty years the Owners have taken each CBA expiration as a licence to kill the PA.
Was there cause? Yes. Last time the league was loosing money even in markets like Pittsburgh where however ignorant the fans are, they will at least show up if there is a good product on the ice. This time? Please. Just please. In a seven year stretch in which the American economy took such a nose dive that not only did the housing market die, but unemployment hit 20%+ in some major hockey markets. NHL revenues grew anyway. Record setting growth.
The ownership collective seems to have a mentality of get richer, and for everyone else; live and let die. All the businesses in the arena district are suffering because the team owners can only think of how diamonds are forever. Looking at the NHL owners I have to wonder where there Bob Kraft is in this group. Who’s the man who will stand up and say ‘we have too much to lose”, rally both sides and throw a thunderball at the people keeping games from being played?
The last lockout almost killed the league. Even teams like Boston struggled with attendance coming out of it. The faith in the ever returning fan is baseless. Fans walked away forever and it took years for new ones to arrive. Part of this was the revival of original six teams and big market teams like Boston, Chicago, and New York, another part was the emergence of stars like Shea Weber on a team that had to fight their way to relevance in market with strong football, and basketball at all levels. The owners didn’t dodge a bullet, last time, they lost a lot of money. The league died and you only live twice.
One of the other factors that has to be considered this time around that didn’t have nearly the impact seven years ago is the KHL. The league has had nearly a decade to get its feet under it. More and more Russian and European players go to or stay in that league. At the casino royale that is the negotiating table the Owners have traditionally held the “highest level of competition” card. How much longer until that is no longer true and the heart of the hockey world waves to all of us in north america from Russia with love?
At this point fan support is squarely in the players corner. Every time the owners, or Gary Bettman is mentioned all fans see and hear is the man with the golden gun weeping about poverty. Could this change? Sure it is possible, and not much less likely than skyfall, but the owners need to be smarter than that, they need to react before the lack of the game beats the living daylights out of the love of the game.