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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


NHL lockout comes to an end: will the fans come back as well?

The National Hockey League lockout was finally over, and it was now time to see how much damage it did to the sport.

A new labor agreement was reached between the owners and the National Hockey League Players’ Association on Jan. 6, which put an end to the 119-day lockout.

The NHL season start was delayed from its original Oct. 11, 2012 date, due to the lockout. Now, a 48-game season—reduced from 82 games—has just begun.

The season will only feature intra-conference play, as was the case during the shortened season back in 1994-1995.

The playoffs will also be the normal length and go into late June.

Since the lockout ended, the league’s diehard fans returned quickly.

Attendance at early games has been high, with many teams selling out.

The New York Islanders, according to attendance numbers from, had had an average attendance of 15,746 for its first two home games of this season. Last season, the team had an average attendance of 13,191.

Hockey is a sport that relies on casual fans to want to buy tickets to games and watch their teams on television.

Its core fan base are some of most passionate fans in all of sports, but are also a much smaller group than those found in other professional sports leagues like the NFL and the NBA.

Many of these casual fans are now beginning to lose interest in the sport as a result of the league’s inability to effectively deal with labor over the past few decades.

The 2012 lockout was the third time in the past 20 years that the league has locked out its players, all taking place under Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The entire 2004-2005 season was lost due to a lockout. “If they don’t care enough about their sport to play, why should I,” said sophomore Jake Maher. This is an attitude many fans are now taking toward the league.

And while the lockout will only have a minuscule impact on teams in big media markets, teams in smaller markets will likely struggle.

“I used to follow the Islanders, but the owners don’t seem to care about the team or fans anymore, so I just lost interest,” said sophomore Kevin McCabe. “They expect us to just stick around, while they fight over their giant shares. It’s terrible, and it’s just turned me off to the game.”

Now, many are waiting to see if the league will do anything to reach out to its fans, beyond verbal apologies. “They should give away some kind of ticket deals. Two for ones or half off. They owe us at least that,” said Maher.

Many fans had suggested that NHL could give away a free version of its NHL Center Ice Television Package, which allows fans to watch games from all around the country.

This hope did not last long, though, as the NHL recently announced that its Center Ice Package would be available at a range of prices upwards of $49.99, depending on the cable provider.

While many have grown frustrated with the league, others are trying to say optimistic. “The lockout was terrible, but hopefully we don’t have to worry about this again for a long time now,” said senior and Islander fan Mike Campbell. The new CBA deal, or collective bargaining agreement, is good for 10 years, and does not expire until after the 2021-2022 season.

The terms of the new CBA include a limit of eight years on contract extensions and seven years on new contracts; a salary cap for the 2012-13 season set at $64.3 million, with the floor set at 44 million; a maximum 35-percent variance in salary from year-to-year on contracts, down from 50-percent in the last CBA; mandatory acceptance of arbitration awards under $3.5 million; and a limit of two amnesty buy outs per team over the next two summers which will not count against the cap.

“It does seem like they should have started negotiating much earlier than they did,” says Campbell. “Instead they wasted so much time not meeting, and throwing fits every time there was a minor disagreement.”

Now that hockey is finally back, its diehard fans are having trouble staying glum. Anthony Castaldo, a diehard New York Rangers fan and Stony Brook student, said: “The lockout was tough, but now that its back I’m just so happy. There’s nothing like it. I missed it so much.”

Time will tell how much of impact the lockout had on the future of the NHL. It took a few years for the NHL to bounce back after its last lockout, but many believed that the past few seasons have been some of the league’s best.

The league must now once again sell its world class athletes to the fans, and find a way to maintain a long period of labor peace with its players.

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