What is wrong with the NHL?

The likelihood that there will be an NHL season, let alone a shortened one, is starting to look slimmer by the minute. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have showed little forward movement during recent negotiations, reportedly hitting quite the bump during talks held over the weekend in New York City. At the core of all problems is naturally money, with the league wanting the NHLPA to adjust contracts and salaries, which clearly they do not want to do.

Monday night’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony gave fans a temporary break from the stalemate that has become the current NHL season, yet even then the lockout could not be escaped. In his opening remarks to the ceremony, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, “Even in difficult times, we find ourselves reassured to be here to recognize ultimate achievements on the ice. All of us, fans, teams and players, look forward to the time the game returns there.”

But just as quickly it was back to reality, and the realization that there was still no hockey season. Another blow to the league was the Nov. 2 cancellation of the annual outdoor Winter Classic – with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs scheduled to play at the University of Michigan’s football stadium on New Year’s Day. Players from both teams voiced their disappointment for their friends, family and fans not being able to attend the event, as well as for the hotels and businesses in the area looking forward to the revenue the event would bring.

[pullquote] three key areas are blocking any type of deal, economics, player contracts, and the damage caused by the lockout [/pullquote]

ESPN NHL reporter Pierre Lebrun said that three key areas are blocking any type of deal between the league and NHPLA right now – economics, player contracts, and the damage caused by the lockout. LeBrun said the league offered $211 million in guaranteed money last week that would be outside the cap system in order to try to make players whole on existing contracts. But the NHLPA reportedly wants more than that to keep its players on a whole earning no less than the $1.883 billion in total salaries earned last season plus 1.75% interest on top of that.

What is wrong with the NHL?

Jonathan Newton / TWP

As for players’ contracts, LeBrun said the league will likely not budge on that until the money issues are figured out. And given that the players and league have enough problems trying to agree on the first two issues, it is unlikely they will compromise anytime soon on how to split the damage caused by the lockout. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly estimates that the cancellation of games in November cost $720 million in revenue losses, ESPN reported.

As for the DC area, Washington Capital fans say there is a huge void right now without the team playing. “I love watching games at the Verizon Center because I feel it’s a much more intimate experience than going to an NFL game at FedEx Field (even though I’m a huge Redskins fan)… the lockout needs to come to a close quick!” says Caps fan Shauna Quinn.

Local restaurants and bars around the Verizon Center, which fans frequent before, during and after the Caps games, are feeling the heat of the situation as well. “You’re favorite football team only plays once a week and the Caps play 3-4 times a week…hockey in general is a huge deal for this area,” says Caps fan Megan Blair. She adds that she’s hopeful there will be hockey this season still but that the league has “locked out an entire year before so it can easily happen again.”

Other DC area hockey fans, such as Mike Werder say that the excitement over RGIII has helped to overshadow the fact that the Capitals are not playing right now. But Werder quickly adds, “I will be watching hockey when it returns…I am a huge hockey fan so I always enjoy watching the sport live.”

Quinn adds that before the Washington Nationals did so well, the Caps were making a name for DC area sports. “I was and still am very anxious to see if we can make it to the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, and hopefully make it to the final round,” Quinn says.

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