The United Center, for once, was silent Oct. 13.
For what was supposed to be Chicago Blackhawks’ home opener, the stadium floor had no ice, no boards and most hauntingly of all, no Blackhawks hockey.
The first several weeks of the NHL season were canceled due to a lockout that was predicted to happen since last year as the collective bargaining agreement expired. The NHL is currently locked out through Nov. 1.
While the league and the NHL Players Association quarrel over key issues like the inclusion of salary arbitration, revenue sharing amongst teams and revenue sharing between owners and players, NHL arenas and fans remain in the dark and without hockey…again.
This is the third lockout the NHL has had to endure under Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the league, and it seems the third time is the most infuriating, especially when fans haven’t been able to properly voice their opinion about the lockout to the league.
Bleacher Report writer and Colorado Avalanche fan Jeremy Laufer is one of those hockey fans who has had enough.
“I’m really disappointed in the NHL,” said Laufer. “I thought the lockout a couple of years ago was an anomaly, but it seems to really be becoming normality in the league.”
Where the second lockout was about salary caps, this lockout’s prime issue has been the split of hockey-related revenue. What was agreed on in the last lockout was that players would receive 57 percent of the revenue, but after last season’s record-breaking revenue gain of around $3 billion, the owners want more than just 43 percent of the share. Their proposal to reverse the numbers where they would receive 57 percent, which was eventually pushed down to 53 percent, gave off the impression of being villains to the fans.
“I get [the owners]think the players are getting too much money, as with all sports, but so are the owners,” said Mike McNicholas, a DePaul sophomore and Blackhawks fan. “The players at least deserve it, since they are the ones with the skills and talent to entertain us, and they’re the ones putting themselves at risk of injury.”
Yet a good amount of the players won’t go unpaid if the entire season gets canceled. Marquee players such as Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have left to go play in European leagues such as the Kontenintal Hockey League in Russia.
The move is good for players looking for experience and extra money, but it can be bad. DePaul sophomore and Blackhawks fan Alexandra Paul thinks that it’s “bad they are knocking other people out of their jobs” who have been in their leagues before the NHL players have.
It is also pretty risky to go play in another professional league because of the situation Rick Nash put himself in. The New York Rangers center suffered a supposed bone bruise to his shoulder, which is what every NHL player wants to avoid since they are not on their NHL team’s insurance. If the players get hurt, they either had to have negotiated their insurance with their European team or pay for their own insurance.
“I’m ambivalent about players traveling to Europe to play. On one hand, I think it’s good that they [hopefully]won’t be rusty and out-of-shape when the NHL season does eventually start up again,” said Laufer. “On the other hand, I’d be frustrated if one of the Avs’ star players got hurt.”
While players cope with the lockout by moving to other leagues, hockey fans can do the same by watching the KHL, which has games on ESPN3. McNicholas keeps busy looking toward the prospect of playing backyard hockey this winter break with his friends. Even with other alternatives, hockey fans still are hoping for a solution to get the NHL back.
Hope came over the NHLPA’s counterproposal to the NHL’s 50/50 hockey related revenue split, and after finally thinking the two sides could agree with one of the fairest ratios of the talks so far, both sides came out empty-handed again to the dismay of NHL fans. After Bettman was quoted saying that the meeting was a “step backward,” Twitter exploded with fans voicing their anger at the NHL and NHLPA accounts, with most referring to how both sides were being unreasonable.
“Obviously I am disappointed that the 50/50 split didn’t work out,” Paul said. “There has to be some decision soon for there to be a possibility for a full season and after today, it doesn’t look that that is going to be the case.”
So while the players and owners continue their fight, the famously passionate NHL fanbase continues to build up hope with every talk, and then continues to suffer after every talk. The discussions will eat up time until the dreaded cancellation of the extremely lucrative Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. Since it is such a money-maker for the NHL, a cancellation would mean very little money if there would be a season afterwards.
Yet as the NHL Zambonis continue to gather dust, the boards remain unmade and speakers that would be blasting Chelsea Dagger remain silent. Fans like Paul and Laufer won’t let dust gather on their jerseys or their hope for the return of their favorite league.
“I’m going to be optimistic about it,” said Paul. “The other lockout should drive them to want to get a season. I’m not saying there is no chance for a season, but I’ll keep hope until there’s no chance left.”