Puck drops here: NHL ends long lockout
Players and owners reach a 10-year deal, play resuming soon
January 7, 2013
After 113 days, the National Hockey League lockout ended yesterday, with players and owners agreeing on a new 10-year contract just days before the full season was to be canceled.
The only question remaining is whether fans will forgive the league.
The answer is far from certain.
The National Football League and National Basketball Association both weathered strikes over the past 18 months and emerged no worse from it.
The NFL had one of its best seasons ever in 2011 following a four-month lockout, with high attendance and record TV ratings.
But the league reached a new CBA before any regular-season games were canceled, meaning the lockout didn’t impact fans very much. It only cost them a couple preseason games.
The NBA lockout, which wiped out more than a month of the season, was more costly. The league lost about a fifth of its games, and it pushed the playoffs a few weeks late to allow for more regular-season games.
Still, fans didn’t hold much of a grudge. Though TV ratings weren’t as high as the previous season, they were still very good, and the hoopla over the Miami Heat winning its first NBA title with LeBron James seemed to restore the league’s reputation by June.
Hockey may not be so lucky. This is the second lockout in eight years, and it nearly became the second to kibosh an entire season, an outcome that proved disconcerting to many fans.
They complained that the NHL did not have their best interests at heart and was clearly being driven by dollars, taking for granted fans’ devotion to the game.
Following the last lockout, interest in and ratings for the NHL fell to new lows. The league became nearly irrelevant, losing its paid contract on broadcast and seeing record lows for the playoffs in the years following the work stoppage.
But the NHL finally recaptured its momentum in recent years. Huge interest in men’s ice hockey at the 2010 Olympics helped drive up ratings, and the league signed a long-term, paying contract with NBC.
The just-ended lockout risked squandering that momentum, and for a long time it seemed neither side cared, a real turnoff for fans.
Yesterday’s agreement clears the way for a 48-game schedule, about two-thirds the usual, starting in mid-January. Training camps will open next week, pending approval of the deal by the players and the NHL board of governors this week.
The players’ share of league revenue will go from 57 percent to 50 percent, and the salary cap will decrease from $70.3 million this year to $64.3 million.
For the first time, players’ contract length will be limited to seven years with a new team and eight years if re-signing with their current team.
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