And so it begins, or ends. I guess it depends on how you look at it. Let's talk about the lockout.
As the season ended a few months back, and the rumors of a possible lockout gained a bit of momentum, I was saying things like, "not a chance," "no way the NHL would let another lockout destroy its growth," and "they must have learned their lesson from the last lockout only a few years back." Well, I was wrong, and even though the NHL is showing record profits, growing in over a billion dollars since the last lockout of 2004-05, the owners and players have decided to take the path of self inflicted wounds to the sport of hockey.
What does that mean? It is really complicated isn't it? There is a lot to look at, in varying levels and an abundance of philosophical differences to reflect on. At the most simple of levels, this is about money and hockey which are currently apposing one another. The owners are stated as believing the current CBA is impossible for them to work with. The problem is, they wrote it in 04-05. Referring to the legal statute of "you make the bed you sleep in" would not be out of line. Plus, we are seeing record profits, how can you not work with that? And, again with regards to simplicities, the players were kind of screwed the last time, taking the brunt of the lockout in a variety of ways, so for them to say, "we gave up a lot last time, and we won't do it again," has merit.
There are many who believe that human kind is in a period of transition. Looking at the current rhetoric that has infiltrated the mainstream, I am starting to believe it. Chicago is in a sea of strikes and lockouts right now. As Blackhawk players join CPS teachers on the picket line, other institutions across America are looking to do the same. The most common topics in the upcoming Presidential Election are most certainly focused on money, who has it and who doesn't, and who understands the value of that dollar. Somewhere along the line, we ushered into a world where it was okay for people like Bettman to say things like, "we are not making enough money," or, "we feel like we are paying too much," even though they continue to spend the money they apparently do not have and bring in record profits. According to capgeek.com, there was $219 million payed out to 18 players in the week heading up to the lockout.
Is all of this noise evidence towards a new path for humanity? The last shout before we start walking a better path?
And, while I side with the players on this one, they too make millions of dollars for playing a sport that they love, and are in heated debates about not getting a pay cut. How can I be expected to live on only 3.5 million dollars a year, when I should be making 6 mil? I find it fairly disturbing that I have to listen to people complain about teachers making too much money for what they do, while hearing this noise about millionaires arguing with billionaires. Out of touch, and misplaced values is an understatement to the current greed that seeks to destroy true progress. Money truly is the root of evil here, as there are real concerns to talk about, contract issues to fix, an education system in crisis, and a world ready to transition into a better place (I hope). Who knows, we might see hockey find its way back to a romantic commitment to the game someday.
Back to the important question of, "what does this mean for the NHL?" For starters, it doesn't look like either side is willing to talk right now, so it means more golf for a lot of people. Training camp has already been postponed, and who knows when things will get rolling again. Refunds will be payed out to fans for tickets and we will wait some more. Given the way things have gone up to this point, and the fight within the players to stick together, we might be waiting a while. IMO, we just passed the point of no return, which was to avoid the lockout completely. Now, I think this is going to be a long and ugly ride.
So, I think the lockout spells disaster for the NHL at large, but I think it is going to be the owners who take the brunt this time around. Call it a hunch. A list of players heading overseas has already been released and other players, such as Montador, have made statements about playing in other leagues as a form of exercise. The KHL will be more than happy to have anyone from the NHL. Tons of players were placed on waivers so that they could play in the AHL, and the Hawks have more than a few on that list, which includes Bollig, Shaw, Leddy, Smith, and Kruger. Actually, this extended break from the NHL could help a few players trying for a spot on the currently flooded Hawks roster.
For one, I think this helps a guy like Leddy out. It gives him a chance to play in a league where he is the big man on campus. My doubts about him have not been very silent, and I like the idea of the management team seeing him play without the pressure Q and company put on him. I like the idea of this giving a player like Hjalmer more time off, and his options made more clear as Leddy plays in the AHL. Some players are going have more time to nurse wounds that just wouldn't go away, and Hjalmer might be one of them. Time off can be a good thing. Although, probably not for Patrick Kane.
In the end, this will hurt hockey, but I can see the Blackhawks gaining in some respects. I do not anticipate much of a loss in the fanbase here, but I could be singing a different tune a few months from now when it seems like no season is in sight. The Hawks had an exciting camp approaching, made so by the depth of talent groomed within the system and the few spots (if any) left up for grabs. Young players will have more time to get ready for that challenge, and we can only win from their improvements. Plus, the looming goaltender question might be easier to answer when things get rolling again.
This coming weekend was set to bring about intense talks about the roster, who was on it, and what combos to try out. I have my opinions, but thought it more apt to wait until we had a better idea of certain names who would fill the holes. Those talks will have to wait some more. Get used to it, this waiting game might be longer than we want. I just hope some real progress is made during the mess.