“We believe there’s ample time for the parties to get together and make a deal.” Those are the words of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. There’s 32 days until the impending lockout and it’s hard to tell if that truly is enough time to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The NHLPA is set to present their counter-offer to the league today. Yesterday Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, said, “What we expect to do tomorrow is to put forth an alternative view as to what we should do next.”
As a precursor to the PA’s offer Bettman boldly declared that there would indeed be a lockout as soon as the deadline hits. There’s just over a month until the impending lockout, and Bettman has made it clear that the owners fully plan on locking their doors come September 15 if there isn’t a new deal in place. No negotiating past the date. No training camps while the lawyers play hardball.
Fehr had previously suggested that training camps could continue uninterrupted if no deal was reached by the 15th of September. “Under the law, if an agreement expires, that may give someone the legal ability to go on strike or in this case to impose a lockout. There’s no requirement that they do so and if nobody does anything you (can) continue to work under the old conditions.”
Fehr’s statement, if nothing else, puts the players in fans’ good books. The players want to play. It’s the owners who are (again) locking the doors, and leader Gary Bettman who’s playing towards a hat trick of work stoppages (the shortened ’94-’95 season and the lost ’04-’05 season).
The Winter Classic
The New York Times has added fuel to the lockout fire by pointing out the fact that the NHL can pull out of this year’s Winter Classic as late as January 1, 2013 – the very day of the game. Being played in the 115,000 seat Michigan Stadium, the Toronto Maple Leafs will visit the Detroit Red Wings. Nicknamed The Big House, Michigan Stadium is the perfect venue for one hockey’s oldest rivalries. That is if the game is played.
Many believe that the NHL and the players will have an agreement in place well before the Classic as the lost revenue from the game would be tremendous. The game will be broadcasted by NBC, as well as standard Hockey Night In Canada coverage on the CBC, and will likely go down as the most widely viewed hockey game of all time. However, this may be a moot point. If a lockout extends well into December there wouldn’t be time to recall players, have camps, and get the league started in time for the big game. If there is a lockout, fans should expect a resolution by early to mid-December, giving the league ample time to run the lucrative Classic.
Count on a work stoppage. And if you don’t want to see another lost season, hope for a resolution by early December. If the Winter Classic isn’t played, it’s easy to see the entire season being lost.