Today in expected, but no less depressing for hockey fans, news: the NHL lockout is going to cut into the regular season. The league canceled the first two weeks of regular season games today, which will result in a total loss of about five games per team (82 in total) – and, for players, the loss of a paycheck. The season was originally scheduled to start October 11. Donald Fehr, the executive director of the NHL players association (and former longtime head of the MLB players union), said in a statement:
“The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the N.H.L. season is the unilateral choice of the N.H.L. owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue. A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort.”
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. The NHL has been on the fast track to lost games ever since the lockout began last month. The CBA expired so close to the beginning of the season, and the sides were so far apart, that there was almost no way to get a deal done quickly enough to prevent a delay of the start of the season. And if one uses the length of previous lockouts as a guide for what to expect – the one in 1994-95 shortened the campaign to 48 games, and the one in 2004-05 nuked an entire season – the outlook gets even grimmer.
Regardless, it’s depressing news to NHL fans who’ve now been through this same song and dance twice in a decade. While it’s hard for us to imagine the NHL throwing an entire season into the toilet twice in eight years, the loss of some action looks likely. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, when asked about the possibility of rescheduling lost games if a deal is reached soon, could only offer that it was “tough to say,” but it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for the NHL to pack a post-lockout season schedule as tightly as, say, the NBA did this past season, given how brutally physical hockey is.
So all that’s left to do is hope that the sides work something out soon, that not too many games will be lost – and that the NHL doesn’t want to commit brand suicide. Because that’s what the second lost season in eight years would be. Any lockout is a bit of a middle finger to the fans, but the league would never stick a giant flaming bird in the face of everyone who has ever cared about it by letting another entire season slip away. Right?
Photo by Helene Elliott for the Los Angeles Times