Hi all. I have stated my reasons why I think we will see hockey by December 1 (2012, lol), so I will not re-hash them again. But what I will say that this situation is much different than in 2004. Much different.
Not having a salary cap prior to 2005 created the biggest gap between the "haves" and "have nots" in the NHL. Teams like the Rangers, Leafs, Wings, Bees, Flyers, etc. could spend ad nauseum and really outspend their mistakes. A high paid player didn't work out? No problem, sign someone else. The smaller and weaker financial teams could not keep up. Not even close. True salary reform was needed as the labor costs were killing the league, unless you were happy with 10 teams or so in the NHL. Bettman and the league were not and took a stand.
The "stand" Bettman and the league took was the right one at the time and I supported it fully. We all didn't like not having our hockey but it was necessary for the long-term survival of the league. The players took an approximate 24% pay cut after missing a full year. The players were humbled to say the least and the league/owners got everything they wanted.
IMO, you will never see a 10 year CBA in the NHL. It's too long a time period for the owners not to have a "safety net" to ask the players to help cure their ills, again. Which is what the league is asking the players to do now, again. The owners say they cannot operate under the current CBA. Leopold's investment of $200M to 2 players, the $1.5B spent since July 1, and the slew of players signed one week before the September 15 deadline (to make sure those contracts are under the old CBA guidelines) says otherwise. As you see, with revenues going up over 50% and with player costs not rising anywhere near that rate, the league is financially stable. And can operate within that CBA.
The infamous Forbes report says 18 NHL teams lost money. Ok, but if you look at the report more closely, you see that a shift of approximately $40M-$50M within the teams would make almost all of them either profitable or at least breakeven. That's a league issue, not a player cost issue. So stating that the league vote to lockout was unanimous is utter BS. Yeah, that's what was recorded officially for legal and bylaw purposes, but I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that room when the vote was taking place. And speaking of the bylaws, Ken Dryden, an attorney and former player, wrote an article that I shared with all of you stating that Bettman had the bylaws changed to require more dissenting owner votes to override his decisions.
So where am I going with this? I truly believe that smarter heads will prevail. They have to. Losing another season, in a bad economy like this, will devastate the NHL. This is not football, baseball, or basketball where there is enough fans to go around to make up for people who have enough of the respective sports. There are casual fans for those sports. There are very few, if any, for hockey. The fans the NHL will lose are hard core. The league and the players ultimately know that. Fans may not be so willing to come back this time. 3 lockouts in 20 years? Some fans will walk away for sure and disrupt the financial momentum the league has enjoyed since the last lockout. One that was needed.
Yes, both sides are posturing right now. Players are going to play in Europe. It doesn't look good. Joe Reiter and the Hockey Rodent have given up. I say, hockey by December 1 (2012, lol). Common sense and/or owners like Jimmy Boy Dolan will force a deal that will save most of the season. The first rule of thumb in any business deal is: be prepared to walk away (or at least give the impression you are walking away from the deal). That's where we are now. But guaranteed, when the prospect of losing regular season games comes into play, the real negotiating will start and a deal to be signed shortly thereafter. That's my prediction, and I hope to God it is the right one. Because I, like all of you, just want hockey. Just do it and get it done. Believe. Thanks for reading.