June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on stage at the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Why A NHL Lockout Hurts Those Who Love The Game

For a fan of a player, seeing them wearing another’s team sweater is the worst that can happen. Retirement or retirement due to injury is preferable. You can talk about the good old days or what might have been. Seeing them in your rival’s colors is like seeing your ex girlfriend sitting in the front seat of someone else’s car, tossing her hair back as she laughs at his awful jokes. It never feels good and you cannot look at them with the same feelings you once had.

For a fan of a team, having them relocate is the ultimate breakup. The recent passing of the original Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell brought this to mind. There are thousands of football fans who will never forgive Modell for moving the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore and then seeing the Ravens win the Super Bowl. Even worse, the Ravens have stayed at a high level while the expansion Browns have continued to play like the Browns. He will never be forgiven.

In their last game in Winnipeg, there is a shot of a mid 40’s couple holding a sign “Phoenix, Take Good Care Of Our Boys.” Winnipeg lost the franchise due to the Canadian economy and having an arena that didn’t have the luxuries the new ones do. Luxury suites and club suites were all the rage. It was not the fault of the fans as much as it was the changing of the revenue model of the game. Winnipeg is showing with the correct amenities, the game will go on and prosper.

Losing a season or a portion of a season due to a lockout is a game changer. The players will possible recover the money lost if they play long enough. Bill Guerin talked about how short a career is and you cannot recover time. Last season, any time he was asked, it was always the same answer. The importance of avoiding a lockout. It is not worth it for a seasoned veteran.

The owners will still own the team at the end of the lockout. Owning a franchise is the static item. Player’s career length is the dynamic issue. The question that needs to be asked is “How is this helping grow the game, and does this benefit the fan?”

In the 90’s, the players got over on the owners and had their way. The players gave up many concession in the last lockout and reduced their share of the revenue to 57% with 43% to the owners. If you read the collective bargaining agreement, you will realize that the clubs did better than 43% of the 2005 dollars vs where we are now. How revenue is collected and split, attendance and television contracts makes the split closer to 50% each. The game is making ONE BILLION more dollars today than in 2004. And the owners have decided they want more.

Owners say they are not making money but what are they doing this offseason? Offering 13 year contracts for 98 Million dollars when negotiating with the Players Association to limit contract lengths of 4 year maximum. Taking your team to the current salary cap limit when you are lobbying for a cap reduction. This means you are telling any player who signs with your team that you are paying them fair market value but will force them to take less once the new collective bargaining agreement is in place. Tendering offer sheets to restricted free agents while asking them to wait 10 years to achieve free agency in the new CBA.

The hundreds of full time and seasonal employees who work for the each team and at the arena on game days are getting ready for layoffs and salary reductions. To no fault of their own. Cities and states are going to see a reduction in sales and income taxes, but you hear nothing on the news.

Here is Arizona, you have a great chance to get corporate dollars for advertising and suites. The Cardinals will be God-awful again this year. The Diamondbacks won’t win a wild card, and the Suns are going to be fighting for 14th place. Businesses still want to reward workers for great performance. They want to get their products in front of the most eyeballs. The Coyotes are one of the best run (from a General Manager on down) teams and offer a great environment to see a game. The Coyote have the highest median salary of any season ticket holder in the valley and more decision makers in terms of purchasing as well.

Youth hockey has never been stronger. The introduction of ADM to teaching Mites the game has graduated the most squirt players in Ice Den history. The Ice Den put in a third sheet of ice that is at maximum capacity. We are in the third generation of valley hockey with the Coyotes coming off their most successful season ever. It is a huge thrill for a Mite team to be able to play on Coyote ice during the first intermission period. Youth hockey travel team tournaments held in the valley usually end up with the teams taking in a game at Jobing.com. Who do they look up to? A player, or an owner? I’ve yet to meet the youth hockey player who wears a Ted Leonsis jersey.

When we add it up, you have players, fans, employees, and youth hockey players who suffer. So who wins? Owners and the league still get their television contract money thanks to it being a lockout and not a strike.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly have done so much to keep the Coyotes here in Phoenix. They need to devote the same energy and principle to resolving the lockout and starting the season on time.

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