My Two Cents for September 10th:
Lockout Inevitable- It’s starting to look like a lockout is not only inevitable, but baring some last minute “govenor’s reprieve” will be in full effect come this Saturday about the time you wake up in the morning. The NHLPA, the Owners & Commissioner Gary Bettman are at best moving along at a peace meal pace and are all but virtually guaranteeing a lockout at this point. Talks between the two sides have long been at a stalemate. Commissioner Bettman in fact has already ordered all NHL players to be locked out effective Saturday morning as some players are now having second thoughts about either traveling overseas or going to leagues such as the AHL and ECHL to stay in playing shape. As far as scheduled regular season games go, baring a quick resolution which is looking more unlikely with every passing moment, games are in jeopardy of being cancelled and the season may soon end up going the route of the NBA last year. Because of a lockout last year, the NBA upon settling their labor dispute truncated their season from 82 to 66 games. Their season started on Christmas Day, and finished when it normally would have.
However you may also remember that the NBA had teams on some occasions play three games in three days, and sometimes in three different cities (The Sacramento Kings for example played a game in Memphis one night, in Denver the next night, and back home in Sacramento on the third night. Ask those players and coaches about how much fun that had to be). The NHL is looking at a similar scenario unless it decides to have teams stay within their own conference when it comes to revising the league’s schedule should that become necessary. After watching the Sharks deal with their nine game roadie last February in a non strike scenario, will they have to play three games in three nights too? Back to back road games are not unusual in the NHL, nor are home and home back to backs uncommon for teams who’s cities are within a two hour plane flight or less from one another. However, travel and scheduling becomes more complicated anytime a season is altered by a labor dispute. The other option would be to do what Major League Baseball did in their 1981 strike, or what the NFL did in a year later in 1982. In both cases, the leagues simply picked up the schedules from where the they would have been at anyway, cancelling all preceding games before it.
The Impact of Past Lockouts with MLB and NFL- As the result of their 1981 labor dispute, Major League Baseball adopted a format where the season was split into two haves which is common in lower minor league baseball (The California League would be a good example here). This players strike led to the cancellation of all games from June 12th until August 10th when the season was resumed starting with the All Star Game. However, the game and product was severely impacted and not quite the same. In fact, the two National League teams with the best overall records in the old division format (the Cincinnati Reds and the St Louis Cardinals) did not qualify for the post season since neither team won the first or second half. The Los Angeles Dodgers went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the 1981 World Series which had at best a tainted feel to it. I won’t even mention the Major League Baseball Strike of 1994, where the season effectively ended in early August and the entire rest of the regular season plus the World Series was scrapped a month later (and as we all know, the NHL under Gary Bettman did this one better ten years later).
In the NFL, the year after the 49ers won their first Super Bowl, the 1982-83 season shut down after the first two regular season games and picked up in Week 9. The season was a throw away for the 49ers who did not qualify for the playoffs with a 4-5 record, while the Washington Redskins would go on to defeat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl 17. It’s really difficult to say how the season would have turned out without the players strike, but needless to say the product was no where close to what it had should have been. The NFL also had a labor dispute in 1987 which cancelled Week 3 of the regular season. The league still played 15 of 16 games scheduled, but the A 24-day strike resulted in replacement players being used for games from Week 4 through Week 6. Many of the regular players actually started coming back to work around Week 6 and the dispute was settled before Week 7.
In the NBA’s 1998-99 season, a labor dispute there also truncated that season from 82 to 48 games. In all cases, all league’s lost millions in revenue too.
Past NHL Labor Disputes- The whole point of this is to show that labor disputes can have huge impacts on the league and even the outcomes of entire seasons. Before the infamous lockout that caused the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, the NHL has had it share of labor disputes. In 1992, a players strike was called on April 1st and lasted 10 days, just at the end of the regular season and before that years’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the 1994-95 season, on the heals of Major League Baseball cancelling it’s playoffs and World Series, the NHL got in the act also and shut down from October 1, 1994 to January 11, 1995. The Damage was 468 games cancelled and the season being truncated from 82 to 48 games, basically cutting the season in half. The All Star Game that season was also a casualty of the lockout (which was scheduled to be played in San Jose. The Sharks would be awarded the 1997 All Star Game which would also be known as Owen Nolan’s coming out party). It was basically the same issues here that would lead to the mother of all lockouts 10 years later. The major issue here was the implementation of a salary cap. The NHL owners were strongly in favor of the cap while the players and NHLPA were opposed to it. I won’t even go into 2004-05, we all know what happened there.
The Fans Usually Are Forgotten in All Labor Disputes- Whether it’s Hockey, Baseball, Football or Basketball, in all cases regarding Labor Disputes it’s usually the fans and in particular season ticket holders who are left out holding the bag. To be fair, in each case that there has been a Labor Dispute that has cancelled either a few games, a significant part of a season or even an entire season, all pro sports franchises generally have been very good about giving these fans a refund of their money or credit towards the following season without charging extra for seats (even when the value of the seats would go up). However, former Major League Baseball All Star Reggie Jackson once was quoted as simply telling the fans to “…just go home. This is a business.” Commissioner Bettman has never said anything like that, however he did not exactly apologize for any of the lockouts he’s presided over, including the one that shut down a season eight years ago.
When the league did resume play, each NHL arena had “Thank You Fans” below the blue lines in each NHL rink for the entire 2005-06 season. It was a peace offering that over time was accepted as slowly but surely the public relations wounds started to heal. It took the better part of that season and maybe the next one too, but eventually even the fringe fans started to come back. The NHL, trying to comeback after a second shut down should the league go dark for the entire year or even a good portion of the season’s first half, will have to find a way to contain public relations damage that will be that much harder to repair this time around. Things such as lockouts don’t help in public relations or reputation. Also consider this, fans by and large are just sick and tired of all of this (at least I know I am). I feel the NHL is at an absolute crossroads here and will be at it’s moment of truth before the week is out. As I have said in the past, the best way to save the entire season right now is for Bettman and NHLPA player representative Donald Fehr to agree to an extension of talks that will not only preserve the upcoming season under the current CBA until a new one is reached, but also the integrity of their talks and the league as a whole. This “he said” versus “he said” is not getting the league or anyone else for that matter anywhere anytime soon. It’s billionaires versus millionaires, and honestly nothing turns off a fan base or the general public faster.
As I lifelong hockey fan myself, I implore both Bettman and Fehr to just set aside enough of their differences so the 2012-13 season can get underway as scheduled. The fans don’t want a lockout, the players don’t want a lockout, and after what happened eight years ago, the NHL does not need a lockout now or anytime in the future. The longer this drags on, the more the league will be hurt. Nobody wins in this situation. This CBA needs to be resolved, as of yesterday!
Boston Bruins Get Ready to Report- At least one NHL team is starting to gear up should a lockout somehow be averted. In a report on TSN.ca, the Bruins as a team are arriving in the Boston area to get ready for their fall training camp in preparation for what hopefully will be a 2012-13 season. Much of the team has arrived in town early as the team is involved in a local charitable golfing tournament. In fact, defenseman Andrew Ference arrived at the annual charity golf tournament wearing his NHL Players Association cap. The Bruins also signed forward Brad Marchand to a multi-year contract extension worth $18 million over four seasons*. The Buffalo Sabres meanwhile also went ahead with their annual charity golf tournament as well. It’s also held locally with team members on hand. However in Winnipeg. the Jets franchise took a pre-emtive strike of sorts and sent a letter to all season ticket holders advising of a possible work stoppage in the league.
Toronto Maple Leafs Get Picked On by ESPN- ESPN recently came out with a list of the worst run teams in professional sports. ESPN, which left the hockey business as far as the NHL is concerned after the 2004-05 lockout and basically ignores the NHL on the whole now, still took the time to pick on one of the leagues’ storied franchises. ESPN named the Toronto Maple Leafs the worst run sports franchise in North America. The second worst franchise was the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Considering that the Maloof Brothers have run the NBA Kings into the ground and are desperately trying to vacate California’s Capital after pulling out of a new arena deal in the last few months, I can see where ESPN would have a point there and I would be inclined to agree with it. Plus ESPN also covers the NBA as the league is very strongly promoted by their Network. I would consider ESPN to be a respected authority there as well. I respect ESPN as far as being an authority on the NFL, MLB and NBA, and College Sports (NCAA). No dispute there whatsoever. In fact, ESPN not only heavily markets the NBA now and makes the league to be one of the top featured items on their network, it gets the same billing as NFL football, Major League Baseball and College Football. They do a great job of it too.
However, that said (or written in this case), my thought is here is that if you no longer cover the NHL and make it a point to all but not acknowledge the league’s very existence by almost never mentioning it while it is in season, then what gives you license to pick on a product for which you no longer have interest in and have long since abandoned anyway. Albeit, ESPN does have the right to not renew any sport it simply no longer feels the need to even cover as would be the case with any course of business. This said, why are you picking on an NHL franchise? Since you do not even carry Maples Leafs’ games or any other NHL teams’ games, why are you picking on them or even trying to pass judgement on how they are run? How they are run, good or bad is really not the point at all. Since ESPN effectively has “No Dog in the Fight” to begin with, would it not be best to more or less “Mind Your Own Business” and leave the NHL alone. Unless the NHL has done something wrong or illegal that warrants an “Outside The Lines” investigation, quit picking on NHL franchises regardless how they are run. Sure, there are probably a number of Maple Leafs fans who may even agree with the ESPN assessment, however to me ESPN is going to a place where they simply have no business being period. They wanted their divorce from the NHL before the 2005-06 season, and they got it.
ESPN, with all due respect to your network, unless you plan to cover the NHL again in the very near future please mind your own business and stay out of the NHL’s business. You simply don’t belong there, and that was at your own network’s wishes over seven years ago.
Non Hockey Item: Congrats to the 49ers!- Congrats to the San Francisco 49ers on opening their 2012-13 NFL campaign with a impressive though very hard fought victory over the Green Packers Sunday (9/9) by a 30-22 final score. The 49ers with the win, won at Lambeau Field for the first time in almost 22 years. Their last win in Green Bay dates back to when the great Joe Montana lead the 49ers to a 24-20 win on November 4th, 1990. On Sunday, it was Alex Smith who despite facing huge pressure from the Packers defense made the key plays he needed to make in leading the offense. Smith on the day hit 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns passes**. One pass went to veteran receiver Randy Moss, who caught his 154th career TD pass and showed he has “unfinished business” to take care of (as does the rest of this 49ers team). Vernon Davis caught the other TD pass in the 3rd Quarter to give the 49ers a 23-7 lead. Frank Gore had a strong game scoring the game clinching TD and gained 112 total yards on 16 carries.
The 49ers were also strong on defense allowing Green Bay only two offensive touchdowns, one of which came after a bad pass interference call by the replacement officials. A key interception by Navarro Bowman off Packers Quarterback Aaron Rogers set up Gore’s game winning TD on the next play during the fourth quarter. Not to be outdone, David Akers kicked three field goals. The last one to end the first half tied an NFL record of 63 yards. The 49ers next game is this Sunday Night as they host the Detroit Lions in the second annual “Handshake Bowl”. The game will be on NBC and starts at 5:20pm. Who’s got it better than the 49ers? “NOBODY!!!”. I would love for the Sharks to one day be able to say it too. Maybe 49ers’ Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has another sibling with some hockey experience. It could only help.
For more information on the 49ers, please go to our Fansided Affilate “Niner Noise”…
…Just My Two Cents…
The King Shark
Blades of Teal: The Final Word On San Jose Sharks Hockey
The Jessica Redfield Ghawi Foundation:
PS: *The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect on any other staff member’s opinions with Blades Of Teal, Fansided or their websites themselves… The King Shark…