So the lockout has begun. For the next while, words such as escrow, rollbacks, hockey related revenue (HRR), partnership and bargaining will be part of the hockey lexicon rather than goals, assists, hits, saves and faceoffs. It is indeed a sad day for fans of the sport. But this lockout will end at some point, just like every other lockout has previously. One of the people who I share Winnipeg Jets season tickets left is optimistic, that the NHL will begin in late November. I, on the other hand, am not so optimistic. In fact, I am very pessimistic. So with that being said, here are five possible days that the NHL will be back on the ice.
November 23, 2012.
US Thanksgiving is a huge holiday south of the border, and has been seen as a pressure point day for both players and owners to resume normal business. It is also the day NBC makes it season debut as the New York Rangers are scheduled to face the Boston Bruins. It is also the time owners can start changing days of arena availability if the lockout is prolonged. While football is the main attraction on US Thanksgiving, hockey is gaining a more prominent role on the holiday. NBC will be putting pressure on both sides to make a deal as well.
December 26, 2012.
This one is a bit of a hunch. First and foremost, the last time the NHL played on Christmas Day was 1971, and that won’t change anytime soon. Lockout or no lockout. Boxing Day would be a nice lead-in to the Winter Classic scheduled for New Year’s Day. A theory that has run through my head is that, since the Winter Classic is an event onto itself, why not make Boxing Day the day the season starts, as people gear up for the outdoor game. Two big events in a very busy week. It could work and it is something the owners just might look into. It worked for the NBA last year.
January 1, 2013.
The most important date in the regular season. The Winter Classic. This game is the marquee attraction of the NHL schedule. And the owners don’t want to lose the large revenues that result from this game. The Winter Classic is also the most watched hockey game of the season in the United States, and NBC doesn’t want to lose this game. With a potential crowd of 100,000 jamming Michigan Stadium, the NHL needs to get a deal done, so the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings can partake in an outdoor classic. The Leafs involvement guarantees a very large television audience in Canada as well. The players know this, and will put pressure on the owners to seal the deal before the new year. One more thing. Is this Gary Bettman’s ultimate plan to lockout the players until January 1, so he can begin the season on the league’s biggest stage? I wouldn’t put it past him.
February 3, 2013.
In my humble opinion, this is the last possible day the NHL could salvage the season. And yes, this is the same day as Super Bowl Sunday. So granted, the NHL won’t be the featured attraction on this day, but it would make for a great undercard, prior to the main event that is the Super Bowl. NBC is scheduled to televise a game on Super Bowl Sunday, as they don’t have the rights for the Super Bowl this year. The peacock network is scheduled to show the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings taking on the Washington Capitals on February 3. Let us not forget, the Montreal Canadiens traditionally host an afternoon game on Super Bowl Sunday, and that trend will continue, as the Habs are scheduled to host the Ottawa Senators. Many fans south of the border don’t pay attention to hockey until the NFL season ends so perhaps Super Bowl Sunday could be an ideal date for the start of the season. One critical flaw to this theory is the NHL would lose the Winter Classic. This day I admit is odd, but it is possible.
October 10, 2013
The worst possible scenario for hockey fans, but one that is increasingly likely, with the rhetoric spewing from both the NHL and NHLPA. This would mean the NHL would lose the entire 2012-13 season. While neither side wants this to happen, I’m not sure if either side is willing to give in to the other. There is so much mistrust between the owners and players that the damage might not have any hope of being repaired. There is this as well. If the players do have the gumption to stay true to their cause, would that mean the removal of Gary Bettman has commissioner? Players such as Zach Parise have been critical of Bettman’s hardline stance. Meanwhile, the owners may want to lose the season, in order to break the union permanently, and force the dismissal of Donald Fehr. This is a war, and it may get ugly. Stay tuned.