NHL, NHLPA reach agreement, allow hockey season to begin

BY ALANNA KOEHLER ’15
Campus Life Editor

The morning of Sunday, Jan. 6, a ripple of excitement ran through the hockey community. “Hockey is back!” proclaimed many sources, including sports news outlets, social media sites, and, consequently, text messages sent to my cell phone at 6:30 a.m. Indeed, the National Hockey League (NHL) and NHL Player’s Association (NHLPA) outlined a tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) earlier that morning in hopes of ending the NHL lockout that wiped out a large portion of the 2012-2013 season.

The terms of the new CBA include a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue (a phrase hockey fans have quickly grown to despise) and a limit to seven years for player contracts, which is extended to eight years if the player is being re-signed by his own team.

Other facets of the agreement include other regulations on compensation, a new Owner-Player Relations Committee, greater regulation of illegal substances, and the creation of a Revenue Sharing Oversight Committee, which will complement the various other actions recently taken to aid low-grossing clubs.

The ratification of the new 10-year agreement by both the NHL and NHLPA Saturday, Jan. 12, allowed training camps to open Sunday, Jan. 13 so players, many of whom played overseas or with junior affiliates, could prepare for the 48-game-per-team season that commenced for many teams on Saturday, Jan. 19 in a day-long hockey marathon.

Thirteen games were played on Saturday, and despite threats of an NHL boycott by many fans, NBC reported high ratings for Saturday’s games.

One game that earned the highest ratings was the highly anticipated Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins showdown, the first meeting of these two rivals since the 2012 playoff bloodbath won by the Flyers in six games. Saturday, though, the Flyers fell to the Penguins 3-1 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Another highlight of the 2013 hockey debut was the hoisting of the Stanley Cup banner into the rafters of the sold-out Staples Center by the Stanley Cup 2012 champion Los Angeles Kings prior to the team’s opener against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings players received their rings and paraded around the ice with the Stanley Cup held high above their heads in a moving, and, for many other fans and teams, envy-inspiring ceremony. The glory was short-lived, however, as the Blackhawks dominated the defending champions 5-2, scoring the first goal very early in the first period.

The first 13 games hinted of an exhilarating sprint of a 720-game regular season to come. There is certainly no dearth of hockey headlines after the approximately 113-day silence on the hockey front regarding anything besides CBA’s, hockey-related revenue, and other lockout shenanigans.

It will be interesting to see if the momentum generated by the dramatic start to the 2013 season will continue until the end, especially given hockey fans tentative attitude towards the NHL. Though television ratings skyrocketed and attendance at stadiums was high on Saturday, there is no guarantee hockey fans will stick around.

Many fans have already become accustomed to the hockey-less routines they were forced to adopt this past winter, and many more will not easily forgive the petty arguments and communication failures of which both the NHL and NHLPA are guilty.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the first NHL games since the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, but many fans will probably think twice before buying tickets to regular season games and purchasing NHL-related merchandise.

Though passionate supporters of the sport, the fans will definitely need much convincing to tolerate the organization after being slighted yet another long chunk of hockey season in the fourth NHL work stoppage in 20 years.

If one thing is for certain, this abbreviated season will definitely be an eventful, white-knuckled, edge-of-your-seat affair for fans, players, owners, and the NHL alike.

Questions? Email Alanna at akoehler@fandm.edu.

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