I will never quite understand why some people think that the fans are somehow to blame for the latest potential but almost certain lockout. The theory goes that if we had not been so gung-ho on welcoming the NHL back the owners and NHLPA may think twice when it comes to a work stoppage. This is stupid for two reasons. First, it assumes that all lockouts are bad and should be avoided. Second, it ignores the fact that fan support of the post-lockout NHL that will ensure we don’t lose a full season to a lockout this time around.
Needless to say going without hockey for a whole year sucked. Many of us were forced to watch poker on TV. What the hell was up with that? Did everyone just discover the movie Rounders at the same time or something? Was it all an elaborate scheme by the poker chip industry to manufacture demand? Whatever it was, it sucked. Big time. However, the lockout brought some much needed changes to the NHL.
The biggest one is obviously the salary cap, and while I think the Leafs should be able to spend whatever they damn well please on their players, it’s hard to argue that the Cap hasn’t been a good thing for the quality of hockey in the NHL. As nebulous of a term as “parity” is, it’s pretty clear that the Cap has eradicated the possibility of dynasties, and that teams like Nashville and Phoenix are able to remain competitive as a result. Also, think about how much money and term John-Ferguson Jr. would have tossed out after the lockout without a salary cap.
Without a prolonged work-stoppage it is unlikely that either side would be desperate enough to concede to radical changes. While we all want hockey to be back as soon as possible let’s not forget that either a lockout or player’s strike has the ability to create significant changes that can improve the game we all so love.
Some people believe that if fans had not returned to the NHL so enthusiastically after the last lockout there is no way the owners or players would risk another work stoppage, due to the fear of losing revenue. This is very similar to the notion that the Maple Leafs have no incentive to ice a competitive team if the fans keep buying tickets (come to think of it I’d imagine the people who think fans are to blame for this lockout are the same ones who blame the Leafs fans for their team’s struggle).
If fans had not returned en masse and instead “punished” the owners and players by abstaining it’s unlikely that the NHL would have seen as much success and increased revenue as it has in the past 7 years. And it is that increased revenue that will result in a better CBA being negotiated as the NHLPA has pretty clear evidence that many owners are doing OK. Additionally it is the NHL’s contract with NBC and the popularity of The Winter Classic that are likely to prevent the lockout 2.0 from lasting into January. Because of the increased popularity of the NHL owners have much more to lose this time around.
If fans hadn’t invested their time, adoration, and cold hard cash in the post-lockout NHL it’s unlikely that the owners’ would have an incentive to get the season starting sooner. It’s because of fan support that we are looking at a shorter lockout this time, not in spite of it.