by PuckStopsHere on 01/06/13 at 03:47 PM ET
It appears that the 2012/13 lockout will come to an end. A tentative agreement has been reached. Both the owners and the players have a chance to vote on the agreement - so there is a chance that things will fall apart - but this isn't expected.
My reaction to all this is ... meh. I wonder when and if I should bother going back to the NHL games. I am sure that I probably will and that I won't like myself for it. I love hockey and don't like the NHL and would love to find a way to see a divorce between the two.
We expect a shortened season. There will be less time between games for players to recover. It will probably lead to a low quality season worthy of an asterisk.
The highlights of the new agreement can be found at Puck Daddy. This agreement is essentially what the NHL wanted all along. They may not have totally broken the union but they got many concessions. The owner's share of revenue grows significantly and in the end that was all that mattered.
From the fan point of view there is little here to be happy about. The most significant difference to the fan is a limit in contract length and the variance in the amount of money a player can have in salary from year-to-year. While the devil is in the details and we will likely learn that there are some significant details we have yet to realize. It looks like things have been hastily agreed upon now that both sides are afraid of losing the season. This agreement looks similar to what would have been available in late November except that both sides were not up against the deadline of a lost season yet.
I think the most likely change from the competitive balance standpoint is that there is little reason for top players to remain in second rate markets once they reach free agency. Longterm, lifetime contracts had provided this incentive in the expired CBA and that is gone. Now the best players will wind up in the best markets when they reach free agency. This will hurt competitive balance. I think this has been a desire for the league for a while. It is not what they report publically, but it would be good for the league financially if the biggest markets had the star power and won most often. It is bad for the fans of the lesser markets.
As long as fans come back again the NHL has no reason not to have another lockout after this agreement ends. This one makes them a significant amount of money that they clawed back from the players. The players still have little in the way of leverage in the future. They seem to have been scared to take the logical step of decertification. I think that will be the required step to break the chain of lockouts. The lockout may have not gone as well as the NHL originally scripted it to go but it is clearly a good financial move for the league.
There may be media members stupid enough to claim that the players "won" because they will still make money under this agreement - just less than they would have without it. Every major point in the new agreement is a concession to the league. The "logic" to claim that players won this agreement is essentially this: I go into a dark alley and meet a violent man who says he will slash my throat and cut off my arms and legs. I negotiate him down to not slashing my throat and only cutting off one arm and one leg. I must have "won" because I made him move from his initial position. I still made significant concessions and got nothing in return. It's a naive and silly position but many in the media will argue for it.
The countdown to the next lockout has begun. The general managers are already hard at work trying to figure out how to circumvent this agreement. Why should I be excited?
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