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Waiting Game

As NHL fans continue to twiddle their thumbs, Chris Stevenson seems to think the stakes are higher now than they were eight years ago:

If the owners and players needed another reason to come to an agreement and play hockey this season, they might want to consider the longer this lockout drags on, the better the chances fans will stay away this time.

The previous time there were probably a lot of fans who understood the "cap-no-cap" philosophical battle.

A year without NHL hockey, well, if that was going to be the price to pay for labour peace and a system that guaranteed the financial health of the NHL, fans didn't like it but could understand it.

Now, it just looks like two greedy sides fighting over the fans' money.

Normally a thoughtful columnist, Stevenson is way off base here.  His argument that hockey junkies "could understand" the reasons behind the '05 lockout is particularly asinine.

It's foolhardy to suggest that hockey fans understood the need to cancel an entire NHL season in order for a salary cap to be implemented.  Even if you accept the idea that fans were sympathetic to the league's demands at that time, Stevenson fails to identify why those same fans wouldn't be just as supportive of the owners' desire for a 50-50 split of league revenues this time around. 

To even insinuate that fans give a damn about the specifics of a labor battle that paralyzes their favorite sport is nothing short of laughable.  Most people simply don't have a keen interest in the economic intricacies of pro sports.  The only thing hockey fans care about right now is the fact there are no NHL games being played in October. 

Contrary to what Chris Stevenson believes, this lockout is no different from the last one in the eyes of most hockey enthusiasts.  As was the case in '05, the vast majority of fans think the players and owners are equally culpable.  But with that said, I have a lot more faith in my fellow hockey brethren than Stevenson.  There's no doubt in my mind that fans will flock back to NHL rinks once the games resume. 

If there's one thing the '05 lockout proved, it's that absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder. 

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This is a pretty aggressive response to Stevenson’s column, and the following quote:

The previous time there were probably a lot of fans who understood the “cap-no-cap” philosophical battle.

I happen to agree with him.  The last lockout saw a major shift in the way the business of hockey worked, and was largely a result of the NHLPA’s then-head steadfastly refusing to accept any kind of cap.  While the collapse of that position has lead to history declaring that the owners ‘won’ that battle, it’s important to note that they made many concessions to the NHLPA in formulating that agreement, including liberalized free agency.  As a hockey fan, and without presuming to speak for a majority of them (like you do) but acknowledging that there are many who agree with me, I recognized the schism between the two factions was economical and philosophical.  And I sympathized with the owners, recognizing that many teams (including my own Oilers) simply could not exist in a cap-less environment. 

This lockout, conversely, is simply economical.  It’s fighting over the pieces of the pie, when last time it was fighting over what the pie should be.  It’s especially galling when the obvious compromise answer is to reduce the player’s share, but also increase the revenue sharing between the big market teams, and leave the rest of the system - FA, Arbitration, etc. - alone (with perhaps some ‘perk’ concessions for the players in return for agreeing to take less up-front money, such as reduced escrow,  liberalized RFA rules, etc.). 

But the bottom line is, it’s different.  It’s 2 groups of rich a-holes fighting over dollars, with a much more modest backdrop of a few teams fighting for their existence.

Posted by jonquixote on 10/06/12 at 06:25 AM ET

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.