NHL lockout was unavoidable
Was it worth all the trouble?
But anyone who thinks the almost-year-long NHL lockout could have
been avoided by simply locking both sides in a room last July just
doesn't get it.
Unlike the NBA, which reached a settlement before its collective
bargaining agreement ran out, hockey needed to see bleeding on both
sides to show everyone they were serious about a commitment.
A deal wasn't going to get done until the owners were able to
convince the players the industry really does have fundamental
The union acknowledged that in February when Bob Goodenow was willing
to accept the concept of a salary cap.
Most reports indicate some form of cap will be in place when a deal
is reached this summer.
Flyers general manager Bob Clarke says the next few weeks will be
crucial for the chances of getting hockey back on the ice in time for
the 2005-06 season.
"I think it's extremely critical," Clarke said on Thursday. "The
sooner they can get done and give us more time to sell our tickets,
to have a draft and to get our players signed ...
"The way it is now in Philadelphia, we know the young players that
are going to be on our team. But who's going to be a free agent, who
we're going to change - it would be nice to be able to say this is
what our team is and sell that to the public."
Was there any way to avert this disaster, the first major
professional sports season lost from start to finish?
"It probably went the way it had to go,"' Clarke said. "It ended up
hurting the owners, hurting the game, hurting the players. There's
really going to be no winner after this.
"From the outside looking in, I don't think the league had a chance
to make a deal. Goodenow's position was just no cap. That's not
negotiating, that's just saying no to everything."
Much has been made of the league changing its image to make it more
fan-friendly, similar to what baseball did after the 1994 World
Series was lost.
What can the public expect from the "new look" NHL once play resumes?
"I think what you will see is a lot of the older players gone,"
Clarke said. "There will be a new league, a lot of young players, a
lot of young stars coming into the lineup on every team, and it will
be exciting because all these kids are good. Unfortunately for the
veteran players, a lot of them will be out of work."
The success of the Flyers' farm system, led by centers Jeff Carter
and Mike Richards, should make it relatively easy for the team to
adapt to whatever salary restrictions apply under the collectively
"I think regardless of what level the salary restrictions are at,
there are going to be some buyouts of our older, high-salaried
players, and we're putting our young guys in," Clarke said. "There
are a half-dozen of them now ready to step in after winning the
While Clarke is old school when it comes to some of the proposed rule
changes, he realizes the game is going to have to reinvent itself to
help bring back the fans.
Most of the changes have to do with an attempt to increase scoring.
"It's a pretty good game, and the defensive systems that have had to
be put in were because there were so many expansions, that's the way
these teams can win," Clarke said. "You can't really blame the game
for the defensive systems that are in place.
"Actually, I don't mind the low scoring although so many people feel
the need to change. What I think we have to do is get more sustained
action. The tag-up rule will do that, so will keeping the goalies
from freezing the puck when it's shot from a long distance.
"If we can get those things under control, I don't think we have to
make as many radical changes as you hear, like taking the red line
out. That didn't work in Europe."
Regardless of how the game is played, the big thing is hockey will be
back. And hopefully moving toward an era when we will never have to
go through again what took place in 2004-05.