The NHL Is Back, and They Have to Play This Season

January 6, 2013 8 Comments »

NHL Unlocked

This morning, after days of federal mediation, the 110+ day National Hockey League lockout is finally over. The 2013 schedule is yet to be released, but the season will be 48 or 50 games as opposed to the typical 82.

They need to play those games.

It is not an uncommon reaction for hockey fans to be pleased this morning, but agitation is still on the menu. For nearly four months, these two sides bickered and squabbled until the last possible moment, trying to shake down the other side for every last buck. There is going to be some lingering resentment, but I do think it will eventually subside. Given that there are apparently going to be eight to ten years of labor peace, things will calm down.

What I can’t understand is that more than a few fans have suggested that the league should give up on this year and wait until next season. Some think that the “Stanley Cup won’t really count this year” and others say “the fans will come back next season,” to both of which I say that’s what you think.

On issue one, that’s nonsense. There have been other shortened seasons before between this sport and others and I don’t think the teams that won would regard themselves as illegitimate champions. For example, in 1981 Major League Baseball, the players went on strike in the middle of the season and essentially created two separate seasons, with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing only 110 of their normal 162 games. I’m sure they felt just filthy winning the World Series and history regards them poorly for having done so. Or not.

As for issue #2, it’s a very generous assumption that the fans would just “come back” after another season gets cancelled. With the present situation, there is still plenty of fan anger but when their team skates in two weeks, they’ll get over it. A second cancelled season in less than a decade, however, would have been a complete public relations disaster for the league and more casual fans would have bailed than you think. Even a shortened season had to be played to save face. It took the NHL years to win people back after the first cancellation, so it seems foolish to assume that fans would be more forgiving the second time.

Hockey will soon be back, which is good news for those who are tired of watching the NBA, but there is a healing process that needs to take place. It will, and over time, we’ll all feel better.

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