The Top 5 Biggest Losers of the NHL Lockout

If you are a hockey fan with a Twitter account you are most likely very familiar with painful complaining. It seems that every NHL beat writer, hockey sportscaster, and virtually everyone I follow from Canada has been lamenting the NHL lockout on Twitter for a couple of months. Is it deserved? Yes, absolutely. Will it change anything? Obviously not.

I am just as guilty as everyone else of producing these depressing tweets with the hashtag #EndTheLockout, but it is getting hard to stay optimistic. With the league and the NHLPA meeting tomorrow, I feel uneasy. Negotiations feel like they are getting down to the wire. Either there will be a shortened season or we will have yet another full-season lockout. The precedent the NHL has set for lockouts is a huge problem and there is speculation that fans might fight back this time. But with the most tribal fans in the US and Canada, would a Bruins or Canucks fan really stop buying season tickets and merchandise? Honestly, I don’t think so. The fans are clearly the losers in this battle between the owners and the players, but who else is losing?

Here are my top 5 losers in the 2012 NHL lockout (in no particular order):

1. The Fans– this is incredibly obvious. As a fan myself, I know just how awful this lockout is.

And as I waited to for the lockout to end during the Presidential election (which clearly didn’t happen), I secretly hoped someone in the audience at the debate would ask about what Romney and Obama would do if they were at the bargaining table. Although that question wasn’t asked at the debate (which in retrospect is a very good thing), Obama did talk about it on Jay Leno- and he was right on the money. Good job Barack, you got my vote. Thanks for addressing the most important issue plaguing America today.

 

2. Teemu Selanne- Selanne, an unquestionable future Hall of Famer, is 42 years old. He is at the end of his career and this lockout might cost him his last hurrah for the Ducks. When asked if he would not play in the event of a full season lockout, Selanne said this, “Probably. It’s hard to say for sure, but year after year it’s getting harder and harder to get ready for the season. When the season starts, it’s going to be fine. But doing all the right things at this age, that’s the hardest part. But, you know, I’m more sorry about this hockey world and these younger players. I would be sad to go out like this, but I got more than I really dreamed out of it.” Depressed yet? What about when Joe Sakic had this to say at his HHOF induction, “I lost a year of hockey. It would have been 21 years instead of 20. That’s what you lose.” Okay hold your tears Anaheim fans, I still have three losers left.

3. Small businesses with Ties to Hockey- This includes merchandise shops, bars, and restaurants around the unused arenas. One sports bar owner from Edmonton said this, “It’s like anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 (in lost revenue) a month. And that’s just us, never-mind the big bars.” These owners are furious. I mean, the millionaire league owners and players fight over hockey related revenue, escrow, and make whole while at the same time putting Mr. Joe Shmo Hockey Man out of business? This Montreal man took his complaints to YouTube…

4. The Minnesota Wild- The Wild made potentially the move of the year with the off-season pick up of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. No doubt Minnesota paid a ridiculous amount of money to do this, but there was a palpable excitement in the air. I watched on Facebook as my friends who are Twins fans posted about hockey (which is a huge deal). Will Minnesota be able to keep up the hype without any games? Maybe, but definitely not like what it would have been if the season had started on time. According to USA Today, “They have sold the equivalent of about 4,000 new season tickets since the day the 13-year, $98 million contracts for Parise and Suter were revealed, signaling the most-anticipated season in the franchise’s 12-year history. Thanks to the NHL lockout, though, the mute button has been pushed on the buzz.” And who likes a buzzkill? No one.

5. Team/League Employees- As a student studying Sports Industry Management, I really feel for the Team and League employees who are getting royally screwed over by the lockout. One day your job is secure and the next the St. Louis Blues are laying off 20 employees and dishing out pay cuts at the speed of light. Not to mention everyone trying to find a job in hockey (gotta love hiring freezes right when I am finishing graduate school). Some employees are being downgraded to four-day work weeks and some are taking permanent pay cuts. FAIL.

Other notable losers: The Pittsburgh Penguins who were favored to win the Stanley Cup, League sponsors, NBC Sports, and the City of Detroit.

And that’s how the cookie hockey season crumbles.

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Ovechkin Skipping All-Star Weekend

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Alexander Ovechkin announced last week that he is skipping the NHL’s All-star weekend. After his announcement, many mixed reactions surfaced about his decision. His statement said, “My heart is not there. I’m suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game; it’s great event. I’d love to be there, but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I’m suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot]”

Ovechkin was still upset about his suspension for his hit on Penguin Zbynek Michalek. Even Verizon Center owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals GM George McPhee came out to say that they both disagreed with Ovechkin’s suspension. You can see the suspension hit and explanation video here: .

Players weighed in on Ovechkin’s decision through twitter. Andy McDonald of the St. Louis Blues was especially upset with Ove’s decision (see tweet below). Another NHL player who took a different approach to Ove’s decision was twitter-addict Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes. He tweeted: “Hey, it’s too bad Ovechkin isn’t going to the All Star Game. NHL could have added a rap battle to the skills competition.”

Clearly players have different options on Ove’s decision, but what about the NHL’s viewpoint? Well, it seems to be wishy-washy. In 2009 the NHL started to crack-down on players deciding not to attend the All-star game. Both Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were suspended for a game because of their decision not to go. In addition, an injured Sidney Crosby  avoided suspension by flying out to the game and doing promotional work for the NHL even though he wasn’t playing. But this year, the NHL has not suspended anyone for not attending the All-star game. Ovechkin did not prove he was hurt (a stipulation enforced in 2009) and he did not go to help out with the promotions for the NHL.

The NHL’s decision to not suspend Ovechkin, Selanne, and Lidstrom (both Selanne and Lidstrom sited their age as their reason not to play in the game) could mean increased all-star back-outs in the future. If all-star players decide not to participate in all-star weekend it could mean a serious annual revenue loss for the NHL. Sponsors might back out, fans wouldn’t get hyped about the event, and merchandise sales would plummet. I mean, who would watch an all-star game with no all-star players?

Another argument regarding the NHL’s decision not to suspend Ovechkin is he is no longer as important to the NHL as he was a couple of years ago. For the past year and a half Ove has been in a major slump that has begun to eliminate his role as one of the main ‘faces of the NHL’. Without putting up the numbers, how can Ovechkin be viewed as one of the most important all-stars? Would the NHL be as accepting to a player like Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk if they made a statement that they would not attend the All-star game?