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Tasca's Take

Who’s Next?

Apparently, members of the media are now interviewing each other about the NHL lockout.  Today, broadcaster Jim Hughson was asked to offer his thoughts on the situation:

"I've been around the NHL for a long time, for the better part of 30 years," he said. "And what really disappoints me is that in reaching the pinnacle this past spring with Los Angeles winning the Stanley Cup, the sport I work on is finally making some real inroads in some real tough markets; the league is on the cusp of something really good, and to see it shut down by a lockout is so anti-productive.

"A lockout, taking away your product, is such a counter-productive way of dealing with any sort of labour dispute. In places like Phoenix and Columbus, Florida and Los Angeles, all the places we've watched struggle to find an identity, I think you need to play and be present.

"Even if at the end of the lockout you gain financially because you get a better deal, I think the lockout outweighs that because of what it does negatively for your business.

"This whole business of locking out constantly is really bothersome to me because I don't think it works."

There's no doubt lockouts don't work in the sense they don't guarantee the avoidance of a future work stoppage.  But Hughson fails to specifically identify the negative impacts of a lockout.  Sure, he says you have to "play and be present" in certain markets, but he doesn't explain why he thinks that's the case. 

It's a reasonable argument, but a difficult one to defend.  Teams like Phoenix, Columbus, and Florida were dying on the vine well before the previous lockout, and have continued to bleed money in recent years.  And while Hughson seems to think a prolonged lockout will only make things worse, Gary Bettman would likely counter by saying he's fighting this labor battle to ensure the long-term financial health of these struggling franchises.

The aftermath of the '05 lockout proved that hockey fans will flock back to the rink once the dust settles.  The problem is that many markets just don't have enough hockey fans. 

What more can be done to grow the game in the league's dying markets?  Hockey is faster and more physical than ever before, yet after all these years, Glendale, Columbus, and Miami have proven to be poor NHL cities. 

Some people would argue that a quality on-ice product would translate into success at the gate for these hapless teams.  But while a lengthy playoff run can provide a non-traditional hockey market with a temporary a spike in attendance, once the bandwagoners are gone, reality sinks back in and the bleeding resumes. 

No lockout will solve this problem.  No crafty collective bargaining agreement will save these zombie franchises. 

Atlanta was the first casualty.  Who's next?

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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.