Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lockout: Will It End?

Last Thursday, the league canceled games through January 14, bringing the total number lost to the NHL lockout to 626 (50.8 percent of the season). Deputy Commish Bill Daly states the point of no return is in and around mid-January. I know you're thinking the 2004-05 season wasn't canceled until much later (announcement came February 16), but they won't give it that long this time. Expect a full season cancellation around mid-January if there is still no deal set in place. The only positive about the "point of no return date" is that nothing can produce negotiations more than a final deadline. But don't get your hopes up.

The NHL lockout has officially extended beyond Christmas. Terrible. The league has lost 626 regular season games and its two signature events, the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the NHL All-Star weekend in Columbus, Ohio. This brings the NHL's all-time total of games lost due to work stoppages to 2,324. Sickening. In comparison to the other three major professional sports leagues, Major League Baseball has lost 938 games, all the result of the 1994 player strike. The NBA has lost 788 games due to its various lockouts. The NFL has not missed any games outside of one exhibition game last year (the Hall of Fame game) due to work stoppages.

Bravo, NHL. Bravo.
There's a true Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham for you.

What irks me most about the lockout is not the fact that we the fans are missing the enjoyment factor of watching NHL hockey in our cities. It's the ripple effect that impacts businesses around entire cities and surrounding suburbs that really frustrates me.

Sabres president Ted Black can understand the frustration.

"We are disappointed the NHL and NHLPA have not been able to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement," Black said. "Our fans are extremely disappointed, and we know the lack of NHL hockey is having a negative impact on many local businesses. At the same time, we want to play hockey under the right circumstances that the NHL will negotiate on our behalf. ... The league has our full confidence."

I myself can relate directly as a part-time arena worker. While I don't depend on the money I make at Sabres home games as a matter of life and death, I'm still losing out on a couple hundred dollars a week because of this lockout. It's a job I choose to work to be in the exciting enviroment of live NHL hockey that I love while making some extra cash in the process. Think of it as my way of being paid to have season tickets, as opposed to the other way around. These millionaire and billionaire owners can argue all they want on how to split $3.2B knowing it's hurting them every day, but it's the part-time and full-time arena employees along with local business owners that are really taking the hit.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, Joe Kasel, owner of the Eagle Street Grille in St. Paul, Minn., a month ago wrote a letter expressing his concerns to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "I had to look 32 of 48 employees in the eyes and inform them that I no longer can afford to keep them on staff," Kasel wrote. "The impact on our lives is immeasurable. One city's devastation may not seem like a powerful incentive to end the lockout; but I know this is happening in other cities around the nation."

PPG also reports, Chris Ray, manager of the Brewhouse Downtown in Nashville, Tennessee, said his establishment is losing an estimated $5,000 for every canceled Predators home game. That's already a $90,000 hit, given 18 Predators home games have been wiped out.

It can only be the same way for restaurants like Pearl Street here in Buffalo that see hundreds if not thousands of fans come in their doors before and after Sabres home games. Every other sports bar in the area feels the pain as well. You can't forget about all the fans who regular their local bar for road games that simply just aren't carrying out their normal routine as the lockout drags on. Those local bars, no matter how far from downtown Buffalo, are bleeding too.

And you'd think the Bills would give us something to cheer about.

When will it end?

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