Tuesday, January 8, 2013

NHL Lockout 2012: Was It Worth It?

The NHL lockout 2012 is finally over, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement being signed in the early hours of Sunday morning. Upon further review of the finer details, the new CBA looks a lot like the old CBA, with a few minor changes. Some of the loopholes to circumvent the salary cap were closed, with next year's cap being remarkably similar to last year's cap. We lost half the season for this? Maybe Gary Bettman greatly over-estimated what the league would be able to extort from the players. He greatly under-estimated the player's resolve to "make whole", to honour their existing contracts.

It is nuts. They should have lost zero games, because despite all the chest thumping and grand-standing, the owners and players ultimately were not that far apart. I am a "sports economist" who specializes in hockey, and I hardly blogged anything about the lockout because I thought it was ridiculous that we lost even a single game. Proof is in the details.  The good news is that the 10 year length of the agreement ensures that we won't have to put up with any more of this shit for a long time.

We'll find out soon enough if this work stoppage does permanent harm to the game. Last time they lost a whole season and revenues not only rebounded, they grew to new heights. Last year the NBA was locked out until Christmas, and they proceeded to have one of their greatest seasons ever with very high ratings. Losing part of a season doesn't guarantee the season will be a failure, but having lost an entire season 7 years ago, hockey fans might very well have less patience. Gary was playing a dangerous game, and won nothing.

Perhaps the reason this whole affair was a pointless exercise is that the NHL Players Association knew very well that Bettman could not wipe-out another season. Donald Fehr knew this, and just waited for the deal they wanted. Gary made a mistake that cost half the season. Did he make any enemies among his employers? It would be interesting to know if he made any promises behind closed doors to the owners. When a deal was finally reached, he had gained very little. Making a completely ridiculous offer in the summer certainly did not help his cause. It only empowered the boss of the NHLPA and galvanized the union.

The NHL owners could make a lot of people happy if they fire Gary Bettman.

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