Even though we all knew it was going to happen, the announcement of the cancellation of NHL pre-season games was still a bit of a blow yesterday as the reality of the lockout hit.
“Oh, this is real, we’re going to start missing games over this.”
Just before closing time yesterday, the NHL sent out this press release. I thought some of the typography was a little odd:
NEW YORK – The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012 pre$ea$on $chedule through $ept. 30. In addition, the 2012 Kraft Hockeyville pre$ea$on game, $cheduled for Oct. 3 in Belleville, Ontario, ha$ been po$tponed to 2013.
The cancellation of the $chedule wa$ nece$$ary becau$e of the ab$ence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Player$’ A$$ociation and the NHL.
While the Kraft Hockeyville game ha$ been po$tponed, many of the $cheduled celebration$ in the winning community of $tirling-Rawdon, Ontario, will proceed a$ planned beginning on $ept. 30.
This announcement just delays us another ten days at the minimum until we’ll be able to start discussing game day routines. It’s getting to the point in the year when you might be able to see your breath if you’re up early enough, and that’s supposed to coincide with the return of hockey.
(The cancellation of the game in Belleville is upsetting, too, especially since it was a chance for Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario to get itself put on the map alongside the great city of Terrace, BC that hosted Hockeyville back in 2009.)
From a conceptual standpoint, the Players’ gain more leverage the more games are missed, unless the NHL is committed to losing another full year of hockey, in which case the Players’ have no leverage. Once the league starts missing the revenue from the league showcase events is where it will really hurt them—and after all, there wasn’t a Winter Classic back in 2004-05.
Where was the NBA last time around?
- Last fall, the NBA cancelled training camp and the first exhibition games back on September 23rd. While you may think “great, so the NHL is at least ahead of them in timeline” keep in mind the NBA starts about a month later than the NHL. The NBA looked further ahead than the NHL and actually cancelled games 21-27 days ahead of schedule, while the NHL skirt closer to deadline, going 2-11 days.
- The NBA then cancelled the last two weeks of the preseason schedule on October 4, or looking 27 days in advance. With that kind of foresight, the NHL would already be looking at games through October 17 today, or the first two games of the Maple Leafs’ season.
- 20 days before the start of regular season, the NBA scrapped games through November 14. That’s 34 days worth of foresight. Commissioner David Stern said there was a “gulf on virtually every meaningful issue”.
- The league then cancelled games in two-week chunks. A fortnight after the first announcement, they cancelled games through November 28. It was at that point that the NBA players first started to crack, saying they didn’t want to cancel the season.
- On November 15, the league was on the verge of cancelling more games. Mr. Stern suggested that the league would take 30 days after an agreement to start.
- Oh, hey, look at that. The NBA and NBAPA reached an agreement exactly 30 days before the league’s showcase TV event on Christmas Day.
I think NHL fans can expect a similar timeline. No sides have significant leverage in talks until October, and at that point I’d expect the first month of the season to be cancelled. If the league is exactly as predictably corrupt as I expect, there should be an agreement on December 1.
The NHL doesn’t collect most of its money until the latter half of the season, about when football season ends and they start to cash in on that NBC deal. The first NBC games are slated for American Thanksgiving weekend, but that’s not as necessary of an event as the Winter Classic that I think the NHL would be less willing to miss.