2012-2013 NHL season is over. All told we had 1526 games played in a lockout season. Not bad considering that number is probably around 1526 more than some of us thought would be played this year. The lockout itself was an amazing roller-coaster of highs and lows, at times not for the squeamish or those that do not care for roller-coasters.
The lockout cost us 113 days and 628 games lost to the abyssal cancellation. We lost the All-Star hang your goalies out to dry game, and of course your favorite cure for a New Years sized hang-over Winter Classic. The lockout also cost the NHL a hefty sum of cash, not forgetting the countless team and arena staff members that had their hours slashed, or were unable to work at all.
The lockout officially began at 12:01 am EST on September 16, 2012, although one could argue it unofficially began in August 2010 when Donald Fehr was appointed supreme leader of the NHLPA. Through the course of the 2011-2012 season little hints were dropped assuring us the NHL and NHLPA knew they had issues. Hockey-Related-Revenue became a household phrase as both sides were posturing for a battle.
The one absolutely confusing portion of this whole mess, is they knew. Everyone who could do a thing about solving the labor issue knew about every issue they had to fight through. Yet not a single person seemed willing to do anything about it. We were assured that we had an off-season to work out our issues, things would progress like normal and it would be business as usual come fall of 2012.
As free agency hit in July of 2012, the Wilderness was all in a tizzy as thoughts of Zach Parise or Ryan Suter danced in our heads. On July 4th the word spread like wildfire in the State of Hockey as the Minnesota Wild announced they had landed the 2 most highly coveted free agents of the Summer in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Things could not get better for fans of the Wild.
The honeymoon was short-lived however, as just 10 days later the NHL made its initial
offer spit in the face of the NHLPA, offering a 57 - 43 split in revenue tilted highly in favor of NHL ownership. The NHLPA, must have noticed the calendar at this point, and negotiations really ramped up. It only took the NHLPA another month to come up with a counter-proposal. Nice urgency boys, thanks!
To their credit, talks between the NHL and NHLPA did pick up in August, alas the progress, if any, was minimal. August also brought us details of pay-cuts for team employees and by late August the lockout was all but in place as we learned sides were still "far apart" on core economic issues. Translation: I want my pennies dammit! By the end of the month, all talks were called off as the deadline to save a season was fast approaching.
September 2012 brought us no progress but we did see an illusion of some movement. The direction of that movement however was not the stuff dreams are made of, as the NHLPA took to the courts in Quebec and Alberta, filing lawsuits to prevent the lockout, if only for 2 provinces of Canada.
September 16, 2013, at 1 minute past 12 am, the 3rd work stoppage under NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure officially began. By the 19th the first round of cancellations hit as the NHL eliminated the preseason schedule through the end of the month. On September 27th, the rest of the preseason schedule was canceled. The following day both sides met for the first time since Sept. 12, in an effort to win fans hearts both sides agree, player safety is important.
On October 4th, regular season games are canceled through October 24th. 82 regular season games mark the start of what was supposed to be a promising season for the newly restocked Minnesota Wild, gone. By this point both sides of the battle are spending more of their time working on the balance of public opinion as opposed to getting back on the ice. Both sides having released video evidence for their love of the game, the finger-pointing was well established as Donald Fehr spoke about the cancellation saying "unilateral choice of the NHL owners."
As the lockout becomes a month old, and the NHL hiring political strategists and forming focus groups trying to find the best way to dig themselves out of a PR nightmare, we hit the high water mark we had all waited for! The NHL announced a new proposal that could save an 82-game season. A 50/50 split of revenue and a "Make Whole" provision, all the NHLPA has to do is agree by Oct. 25 and we could be dropping the puck on a full season starting November 2nd.
In what could probably be considered one of the defining moments of negotiations, the NHLPA would counter-offer with 3 alternate proposals of their own. Gary Bettman was not pleased. The NHL immediately rejected the counter-offers, picked up their toys and pouted all the way home. October 26th, games through November 30th are canceled and all hopes of an 82-game season are dead. A week later, the Winter Classic becomes a casualty of the lockout.
By mid November we had been in what you could I suppose mistake for heavy negotiations between the two sides as they try to navigate around a magical number. That number, $380 million. In a 3.3 billion dollar industry, the rest of us got to sit and watch as a very rich industry argues over what would amount to a few bucks to your average Joe. November became a series of talks, talks of breaks in talks, talks of talking about talks, smaller group talks, and finally talks with government mediators! OH BOY!!! Now we're getting somewhere!
Nope. Mediators threw up their hands.
"After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time."
December brought us our entertainment portion of the evening. Breaking talks down to just 18 players and 6 owners, surely cooler heads will prevail and a deal will spring from these small group meetings. Queue the #PodiumWatch. Perhaps the writers had started to get a little stir crazy from being sports writers covering big business meetings, but reports start coming out of a magical podium and deal seemed imminent. Both sides left the meetings, Fehr spoke and hope was in the air.
In what is probably the greatest irony of the entire lockout, as Fehr was speaking of an apparent agreement, the NHL was leaving him a voicemail stating talks were off, the deal is off, and they were heading back to New York. Why? Because these sides are not even capable of figuring out if it's a "negotiation" anymore.
December 10th, games are canceled through the end of the month. Government Mediators II: Same Results is released on December 12th. More lawsuits are filed as the NHL sues the NHLPA saying threats to dissolve the union was an admission of negotiating in bad faith. On December 20th, all NHL games through January 14th are canceled and a deadline for canceling the season itself is set for mid January.
The end of the year brought us another offer from the NHL while the NHLPA sat in limbo as they were granted authority to file a disclaimer of interest, which would dissolve the union and allow players to file anti-trust lawsuits against the NHL. This was a move used by the NBAPA in their negotiations the previous season, which put the pinch on the NBA brass to get a deal done.
The New Year rings in and the NHL goes beyond their deadline of January 2nd deadline to dissolve. Talks are progressing nicely and the NHLPA were going to gut it out and see where it went. It didn't take long, as another snag in negotiations would crop up. Peoples feelings were hurt, so the best thing for everyone was the Jan. 4th release of Government Mediators III: Grow Up Kids.
On January 6th, in the early hours of the morning, Bettman and Fehr skipped to the podium holding hands to announce they had reached a deal. The league would later announce the start date and truncated 48-game schedule. 113 days, 628 games, but their would be hockey in the
2012 - 2013 season. What did we learn? That perhaps the people in charge could learn a lot from that kid in the mall who gets excited when he finds a few loose nickles and dimes on the ground.