Season Saved: A fan blogger’s frustration


USA defenseman Seth Jones gave us plenty to get excited about over the last two weeks in Ufa, Russia.

The NHL and NHLPA finally reached tentative agreement on a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). After 16 hours of negotiations with federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, the two sides agreed on a 10-year CBA that will be ratified over the next two days.

It took 113 long days for the league and players to end the latest lockout under Teflon commissioner Gary Bettman. The same amount for NHLPA taskmaster Don Fehr, who probably has never smiled in his life. He once destroyed baseball and nearly derailed NHL hockey. If he’d taken Bettman with him, I would’ve rejoiced. A tough league boss who at the very least, got Fehr’s side to an even split of revenues for all 10 years if the PA doesn’t opt out after eight. Team related revenues increase to $200 million with the Players Fund reaching $60 million.

They even decided to agree on the controversial contract limits. Free agents can’t be signed for more than seven years by other teams. If they re-up with their own team, the max limit is eight. Another key stipulation is salary variance. Salaries cannot vary more than 35 percent from year to year and the final year can’t be over 50 percent of the highest year. At the very least, there won’t be anymore outrageous long-term deals that exceed 10 years. A plus for the league moving forward.

There also will be amnesty buyouts after the first and second seasons. Each team is allowed two amnesty buyouts. It won’t count against the salary cap. However, the amnesty clauses will affect player related revenues. In other salary related news, teams can only walk away from salary arbitration if the reward exceeds $3.5 million.

The max cap for the second year will be $64.3 million. The floor is $44 million. Teams are permitted to spend up to a pro-rated $70.2 million. Basically, the NHL backed off its $60 million demand which was a coup for the NHLPA. It gives teams more maneuverability. Of course, there’s still over a 20 million gap between the highest spending clubs and lowest spenders. So, we’ll continue to see a disparity, which I’m not sure is so good. The biggest comparison that comes to mind in this area is the difference between the Rangers and Islanders. The Isles have a great farm system which should benefit them long-term. Maybe Charles Wang opens the vault when they move to Brooklyn.

There are other highlights including a good change for teams that miss the playoffs. All 14 will be eligible for the first overall pick of the Draft- meaning the NHL lottery just got more interesting. Imagine if your team finishes with the worst record and you slip. You might be furious but it also guarantees a more competitive balance. Teams won’t be so quick to sell. Playing to win benefits everyone.

The NHL still may participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Russia is coming off hosting a successful World Junior Hockey tournament in Ufa, Russia. For the third time, Team USA were crowned champs defeating Sweden yesterday 3-1 to capture gold. Sweden took silver and Russia edged old rival Canada 6-5 in overtime to claim bronze. The CBA won’t affect whether the league competes at the ’14 Winter Games. The NHL and NHLPA will have discussions with the IIHF and IOC. Hopefully, they’ll reach agreement to send our players over for one more Olympics.

On paper, everything sounds good. It still doesn’t explain why it took so long. The two sides dragged its feet and toyed with fans’ emotions. Based on the overwhelming reaction on Facebook and Twitter, people can’t wait for hockey to return. I guess Bettman was right. The loyalty of hockey fans can never be questioned. We’re diehard as it gets. I wish I could say I was excited about the return of the NHL. But I’m not jumping for joy. This excerpt from TSN explains how I feel:

The NHL and NHLPA had been without a CBA since the previous one expired just before midnight on Sept. 15. The lockout cost the league 510 regular-season games, including the New Year’s Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game in Columbus.

While the CBA negotiations didn’t fall apart and force the cancellation of the season, they certainly brought plenty of drama and frustration for the owners, players and fans.

I still have a hard time understanding why they needed to lose so many games, including the league’s biggest draw the Winter Classic was lost along with the All-Star Game, which probably was the only big game Columbus could get excited over. Here’s hoping Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and Tim Erixon make hockey relevant again for Blue Jacket fans. I’m sick of arrogant Ranger fans claiming that we gave up nothing for Rick Nash. Arty and Dubi were a big part of our team’s rise. The true Blueshirts know better.

Once ratification takes place, the next order of business will be how long a season it’ll be. The NHL drew up two difference schedules. One is based on 48 games and the other 50. If it’s 48, the season wouldn’t start until Jan.19. If it’s 50, it would start Jan.15. Personally, it doesn’t matter. They already lost a good chunk over stubbornness and stupidity. They took hockey fans for granted and cost dedicated people jobs, who go the extra mile to make us happy at games. They can’t get any of the lost money back. Try telling that to the few greedy owners who didn’t care if there was a season.

It’s interesting to note that Kris Letang went to the KHL. He’s one of the best defensemen in the game. What happens? Is he ineligible for the shortened season? That’d be a big blow for the Penguins. Of course, every NHLer who signed with the Kontinental Hockey League can be let out of their contracts once the NHL resumes. I’m just uncertain how it works for Letang.

I’m really happy a deal has been reached,” Letang’s Pen teammate and captain Sidney Crosby told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review earlier today. “It’s exciting to know we will be back playing hockey.

Everyone is obviously relieved that it’s over and done with, for all intents and purposes, and we’re able to kind of move on to what we kind of enjoy doing a lot more than this,” added Coyotes’ lifer Shane Doan.

Kudos to both of them for staying for the duration. You can tell how much they wanted to save the season. I just wish it came sooner. Whether it’s 48 or 50, you have to get off to a strong start. It leaves no wiggle room. Part of me is still empty from the shenanigans. I will follow it but not with the same intensity. I won’t attend any Ranger games. Even if they went 48 or 50-0-0, it wouldn’t change my sentiment. I’m still annoyed. Judging from some of the comments on TSN, I’m far from alone. Maybe Canadians get how ridiculous this was. This is their sport. I’ve seen more resentment from them.

You can’t screw with the fans. We already survived an entire lost season. If they had lost ’12-13, I wouldn’t have cried. Sure. It would’ve been a bitter pill to swallow. But if it meant the end of Bettman and his minions, I wouldn’t have blinked. I still hate this commish and think it’s time for him to go. He’s overstayed his welcome. Get someone in there who knows the game. I hate all the rule tweaks. I’m sure that silly tradition will continue, embarrassing true hockey fans, players and coaches.

The lockout may officially end in a couple of days. But it still lingers. I can’t get the bitter taste out. There won’t be any Center Ice here. No extra games. I won’t watch every single Ranger game. I’m not purchasing anything from NHL.com. I already banned the overpriced jerseys. If they truly cared about the fan, everything would be half price. Will ticket, food or parking costs decrease? You already know the answer.

I’ll cheer for my team on the tube. If they win the Cup, it still won’t be the same. I’ve changed my tune on the shortened season. It pales in comparison to playing a full 82-game schedule and then going through four excruciating rounds. If your team wins it all, the max number of postseason games they could play is 28. If you do a little math, that still doesn’t equal 82.

Go ahead. Party. It’s great that the NHL has decided to return. But I’m not going to bend over backwards or jump through hula hoops. I’ll still follow junior, college, AHL and occasionally the KHL. The lesson learned from this is that hockey is more than just a selfish organization who left us feeling empty. There’s hockey everywhere to be found for much cheaper. Save some money. Enjoy the games and your team for what they are.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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3 Responses to Season Saved: A fan blogger’s frustration

  1. Hasan says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Hasan says:

    I've said this before, but the only things the league can really do to show the fans they're sorry (besides lowering ticket prices, which ain't happening) is free Center Ice and putting Bettman out to pasture once and for all. I don't know how much I'd expect either to happen, though. Now we'll really see how much damage has been done. Hopefully there's enough temporary backlash that it sends a message, but selfishly I don't really want to see my own market suffer, NJ was just starting to make inroads (3500 new season ticketholders the last two years, more younger fans attending) with this second generation of fans. It'd be a shame if things went backward, especially since by and large this lockout wasn't the Devils' doing.

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  3. Derek Felix says:

    They should throw in Center Ice for free. I've seen it suggested. But probably won't happen. I saw that the Panthers are doing something for their fans with tickets starting as low as $7. And the Devils are giving away free season tix to one lucky fan. I agree that your fanbase is starting to develop. I'm sure they'll be back. And Ranger fans are ready to flood MSG. I'd imagine my Dad, Justin and his friend will go back. It feels weird. A 48-game season. I almost would rather there be no hockey until the Fall. I am so used to the full 82 and peaks and valleys. Anything can happen in an abbreviated year. Expect the unexpected. I don't have great expectations for the Rangers.

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