NHL Lockout Ends, with Interesting, New CBA

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Regardless of the team you root for, NHL fans across North America can rejoice: Hockey is back!

In what was perhaps the most unnecessary lockout in the history of organized sports, the NHL and NHL Player’s Association have finally agreed to a new, 10-year CBA allowing for a shortened 2013 season at 48 games, starting Jan. 19.

113 days later, fans–some of whom won’t come back–finally get their NHL back, but not without some changes to the game:

Draft Lottery: The 14 teams that don’t make the NHL playoffs will now be subject to a draft lottery, similarly to the system the NBA employs.  Prior, only the NHL’s bottom four teams could receive the no.1 overall pick.  The Oilers have had the last three picks (Yakupov, Nugent-Hopkins, and Taylor Hall).

Salary Cap:  Originally, the NHL owners wanted a salary cap of $60 million, while the NHLPA desired a cap of $65 million for 2013-2014 seasons.  The thought was that teams would have more financial flexibility to sign players if the players had their cap in place. For the 2013 season, teams will be allowed to spend up to $70.2 million, with a cap of $64.3 million for the next year.  Under the owner’s desired cap of $60 million, teams like Philadelphia and Montreal would only have about $200,000 to spend on players, given the contracts handed out to other players, which brings me to the next point.

Contract Length:  Players are now subject to a seven-year contract, which increases by one more year if said player is signing with his own team.  Max salary variance is 35 percent, and cannot exceed 50 percent in the last year.

Third Party and Suspensions: While Brendan Shanahan made a household name for himself last year following his inaugural year as the NHL’s head disciplinarian, appeals will still now go through Commissioner Gary Bettman, and for suspensions lasting longer than six games, a third party is to be involved (sound familiar?)

Last, revenue sharing will increase to $200 million among teams.  While the NHL desired to delay free agency until July 10, the players kept their date of July 1.  The minimum salary a player can be had for is still $525,000 but by 2022, it will be $750,000.  The 2013 NHL season will start on January 19 provided the Board of Governors and Players agree to the deal, which, by all accounts, they should.

CBA talk aside, I’m left wondering how fans act now.  Does the bitterness of another lockout rapidly subside now that we’re about two weeks away from a puck drop?  On social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, I saw no anger from fans, with a universal reaction of delight.  Regardless, the universal consensus seems to be that the NHL will always be the last of the “Big Four” of sports leagues, and with another season half-lost, this certainly rings true.

Some ways the NHL could appeal to it’s toyed-with-fanbase are the following:

  1. Free Center-Ice and NHL GameCenter for this shortened year, and next year.  Allow the “fringe” fans to see the games at the comfort of their own home, laptop or mobile device, while the die-hard fans (and casual goers) have:Image
  2. Discounted Tickets:  On the right is the New Jersey Devils seating and pricing options for the 202-2013 season.  While secondary markets like Stubhub exist and fans can get their cheaper tickets that way (tickets for Winnipeg @ New Jersey start at $36 despite this schedule being the original one prior to the agreement of a new CBA), it would behoove the NHL to act in good faith and drop all these prices across the league by, lets say, anywhere between 10-20 percent.

Last, I realize a lot of fans will want to see Gary Bettman resign, but as we saw in the suspension portion of the new CBA, it’s apparent he will not step down, and according to former Boston Bruins coach Don “Grapes” Cherry, of Hockey Night in Canada fame, it was Bettman who agreed to this at the last minute, contrary to reports that Bettman was ready to cancel the season.  Also, there is no reason as to why the marathon talks with federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh could not have happened earlier.  This lockout will be remembered for one thing in the history books: satisfying the egos of Bettman and Fehr up until the very end.

The puck drops January 19!

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