Reasons Why the 2012-13 NHL Season Can’t be Lost (but probably will be anyway)
The NHL lost an entire season in 2004-05, it was devastating to professional hockey in the USA, where it is largely considered a fringe sport just above Major League Soccer. Not to mention after years of growth, the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals had the lowest TV ratings since 2007 (Anaheim vs. Ottawa) and that is with the massive L.A. market in the Finals.
L.A. was never thought of as a hockey hot-spot even when they had Wayne Gretzky on their roster, but with their first Stanley Cup ring, they have a chance of holding onto the massive amount of bandwagon support they received over the course of the playoffs. Think of how big that market is, the NHL can’t afford to lose that. Which is exactly what they are about to do if they don’t agree to a new CBA by September 15th.
Large Market Success
The New York Rangers just completed a block buster deal in order to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets’ captain Rick Nash, now they are in serious contender talks for the Stanley Cup. How does this benefit the NHL? The Rangers are the largest market in the NHL, and they’re not the only big market team seeing success.
L.A. just won their first Stanley Cup, and managed to keep their championship roster intact, ensuring their city will be in contender talks for years to come. Maybe the big L.A. market can give hockey the boost in California its needed for the longest time. The last California-based champion was the Anaheim Ducks, and it was the least watched Stanley Cup Finals since the ratings have been kept track of.
Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit are all huge markets and all are Stanley Cup contenders next season. The only one of those teams that was winning anything before the last lockout was Detroit, and all have gotten huge resurgences since then. Locking out another season would only kill the league’s best money making ventures.
New Market Success
Coming off a season where the Phoenix Coyotes (a team owned by the league) had the best postseason run in franchise history, you know something is changing in the league. Most non-traditional hockey markets showed serious improvements in both on-ice performance and in-seat attendance, hell even the Coyotes filled 83.2% of their seats, a 2% increase over last year’s totals.
Every single team in the league saw jumps in attendance (the biggest was jump was the New York Islanders). This is what the league has wanted since they moved teams to the southern states, to places where the only place to see hockey was on TV. Not only are the seats being filled for the first time in some of these places (Phoenix, Florida, Dallas) they are fielding competitive teams on the ice all at the same time.
All three California teams, both Florida teams, a team in Texas, a team in Arizona all have possibilities of the postseason. This is what the NHL wanted years ago when they shipped teams off to these places (abet giving up on one in Atlanta) and while it took a long time they are starting to not only show a hint of greatness (I’m looking at you Florida) but show real staying power in both the win column and in the stands.
Cancel a season and many of those new fans might not be willing to come back.
Some Teams Won’t Live To See 2013-14
Relocation rumors have plagued the Phoenix Coyotes for years, and just when the paper work was going to be inked to send them off to Canada somewhere the NHL itself stepped in to take control to keep them in the desert. Obviously they care about the future of the team more than say, the Atlanta Thrashers. They finally have success both on-ice and in the seats. This is no doubt making a few people who want to keep the team in Phoenix start putting together deals for the team.
Would you buy a team in a league that has lost two entire seasons in less than ten years? Didn’t think so, and right now they are losing $24.5 million a season in operating loses. The league will probably try to cut costs if they lose another season, so they will probably stop trying to hold on to the Coyotes. There are numerous buyers for the team all over Canada. Quebec City already has started building a brand new $400 million dollar arena and the Conference Board of Canada has said Hamilton, Ontario would be a great place for a team.
What other teams might not make it? Well, according the Forbes.com the Nashville Predators are operating at an income of minus $7.5 million and they just signed a massive $100 million dollar contract with Shea Weber which is ridiculously front-loaded. Owner Thomas Cigarran has recently stated he is looking for a new $25 million dollar investor. 52% of their value is debt. Not good.
Then there’s a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets who are operating at minus $13.7 million and just traded off the face of their franchise since they were founded. They lost $25 million in 2011 alone. 66% of their value is debt.
Those are just the worst. The St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, and Anaheim Ducks are all operating at a loss and are having money problems. They need this season to get them out of the hole (minus the Blue Jackets and Coyotes who are pretty much screwed no matter what) and the possibility of losing another season is driving away much needed investments.
Gary Bettman has been a curse to the NHL since he has taken over and this will be his third lockout since he has been commissioner; that is just insane. There is a reason he gets booed at the NHL Draft every year. He has set a firm lockout date of September 15h if no CBA is signed. “Time is running short and the owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season, so we need to get to making a deal and doing it soon,” Bettman said after the two sides met at the league headquarters.
He went on to try to push the blame on the NHLPA by saying “They knew this was coming”.
NHLPA executive director Don Fehr pushed the blame back on the owners and commissioner by saying “Under the law, if an agreement expires, that may give someone the legal ability to go on strike or impose a lockout, There’s no requirement that they do so, and if nobody does anything, you continue to work under the old conditions until they do change. … So if there’s lockout, somebody has to choose to do this.”
So there you have it. Like in 2004-05 it seems like the owners and commissioner are heavily pushing for the lockout, while the NHLPA is trying to stop it. I guess we’ll find out on September 15th.
Joe Kassabian is a contributor for Outside the Redzone. Follow him on Twitter @jkass9966