Foam Finger: NHL Unfreezes Lockout

L.A. Sports from the fan stands


After more than four bleak months of missed games, unproductive negotiations and heaps of frustration, the NHL lockout is over.

On the one hand, it turns out the ice at the Staples Center will get some use after all this season. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Kings won’t get to keep that Stanley Cup forever, which was seeming like a possibility. Unless, of course, they win again.

It seemed to come as a surprise to many, as most news related to the lockout had to do with stalled talks and failures to compromise, but the league and the players union hammered out an eleventh hour effort to preserve at least a partial NHL season this year that will feature in the neighborhood of 50 regular-season games.

Games could begin as soon as next week.

The major details: It’s a 10-year deal with an opt-out after eight, and revenues will be split 50-50 between the league and the players. There’s a seven-year contract limit (eight years to re-sign a team’s own players) for players, and the salary cap in 2013-2014 will be set at $64.3 million, fluctuating each year depending on the financial performance of the league.

That salary cap figure is an important point, considering that it was reported the league was recently insisting on a $60 million cap. That means the league likely gave some concessions in order to finally come to terms.

It remains to be seen, however, if the damage has already been done. The NHL is a league that clings tightly to casual fans in attempting to broaden its audience, and many might be uninterested in following the sport after its lengthy absence.

Among the games cancelled over the last four months was the Winter Classic, one of the NHL’s hallmark events, scheduled this year to be played between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

With that said, after the cancelled season in 2004-2005, attendance actually rose the following year, with most of the fans returning.

Before this year’s lockout, revenues for the league were soaring at $3.4 billion, which will be a challenge to match (at least on a prorated basis for the shortened season) this year. Will the league have enough time to pick up steam with mainstream viewers in a short campaign before the Stanley Cup Playoffs? That remains to be seen.

But for now, at least Los Angeles fans have some hockey to look forward to. Particularly those fans who want nothing to do with the Lakers right now.

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