Tag: television contract

Gary Bettman

Why there won’t be an NHL lockout after 2011-12 season


Chances are you’ve heard a thing or two of late about how the NFL lockout ended and since you’re here and you’re a hockey fan it made you start thinking back to the dark days of 2004-2005. You know, back when the NHL owners held the NHLPA over a barrel trying to fix the economic standards of the league and went so far as to sacrifice an entire season to do so.

You remember how that felt when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said there would be no season, no Stanley Cup awarded, and most importantly, no hockey played at all. All those feelings bubble up every time there’s a labor dispute to be had in pro sports and while the NBA is dealing with their own lockout, the NHL could once again be back in the same position after next season.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement the NHL and NHLPA worked out to end the lockout back in 2005 expires after next season meaning that it’s time for the two sides to go back to the table. Hockey fans are still scarred over what happened in the past but fear not, both sides have a few reasons to get things worked out without having a work stoppage.

The National Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald outlined a few things that show why there might be a lockout once again, but here’s a few things to show you why that’s not going to happen.

1. Cash rules everything around them

While the salary cap and salary floor keep going up and that can mean trouble for some of the poorer teams that have to spend more, it does mean one really good thing: Revenues keep going up. With money continuing to flow in, television ratings continuing to rise, the game’s popularity growing with the merchandise sales to match and a new TV deal in place… Figuring out how to best divide up a bigger pie should be a pleasant problem to have.

The one thing both sides need to figure out is how to make sure getting to the salary floor is less painful for teams that don’t make as much money as the Maple Leafs, Flyers, Red Wings, and others. Some teams are still struggling to make the big bucks and while there’s some revenue sharing now, there’s not a lot of it to help offset losses for some teams. While they’re not going to go full on to keep teams afloat, giving out more money to hurting teams would help.

2. There’s actually a working TV contract

When the NHL locked out the players back in 2004, it came at a rough time as the NHL’s deal with ESPN and ABC had an opt-out clause for them. Once the lockout was wrapped up, ESPN and ABC got out of hockey and the already publicly damaged NHL had to suck up their pride and make a deal any way they could.

Now there’s a new, fat contract signed and sealed with NBC and NBC Sports Group with lots of money behind it, ticking off the newly re-upped rightsholders by not giving them what they paid for doesn’t really do a lot to help out the mutual business. It all comes back to money again here, but when there’s nothing about the sport on TV that hurts everyone’s bottom line.

3. Both sides know how bad for business a lockout is

Sure, lots of fans are nervous that Donald Fehr is leading the NHLPA and not a lot of fans really care for the job Gary Bettman does, but both sides have one big thing in common. Both Fehr and Bettman have been through sport-crippling work stoppages.

Bettman, of course, had two work stoppages to his record. The stoppage in 1994 caused nearly half of the 1994-1995 season to be missed as just 48 games were played that regular season and the entire 2004-2005 season was nuked. Fehr was head of Major League Baseball’s Players Association when the 1994 World Series was canceled due to a mid-season lockout. While he was able to help the MLBPA and MLB avoid further issues later on getting another deal agreed to, his reputation has been sealed thanks to getting the World Series canceled.

With track records like that, both sides know they can’t afford to allow things to get so bad once again and cause there to be games missed. Things aren’t so bad in the NHL that they need to fight tooth and nail all over again, tweaks are needed and will be handled with the right amount of mutual griping.

4. They can’t afford to lose the fans

With memories of how much the last lockout affected the NHL, both the NHL and NHLPA know that they can’t risk doing that to hockey fans all over again less than ten years after kicking the fans in the crotch. Letting the game suffer again so soon after that would be a death blow for the sport. Hockey fans are loyal and they’ve put up with a lot of crap from its leaders.

When the NHL came back, they promised fans lower ticket prices and plenty of other perks to buy them off. The lower ticket prices never showed up, but the fans came back in droves in most places including a few of the old traditional places. Screwing the fans over again while the game is at its most popular in places like Chicago and Boston while continuing to pick up steam in other cities would be about the worst business plan around.

No business can survive while making terrible decisions and for the NHL and NHLPA, slapping the fans in the face again while old wounds are still healing would go down as a historically bad decision.


Guaranteeing labor peace is a foolish thing to do and while both the NHL and NHLPA are going to fight for their needs, wants, and piece of the CBA turf, they know they can’t afford to let things get out of hand. Fans will fret and will continue to do so until a new deal is done, but there’s no reason to think that we as hockey fans will be sitting here sweating things out the way NFL and NBA fans have done and will do.

NHL and NBC Sports Group sign 10-year broadcast deal


With the NHL seeing revenues increasing each year and NHL fans coming back to the game and making it popular all over again, the expiration of the NHL’s TV deal with NBC and Versus at the end of this season brought about speculation about where the NHL might end up on the air in the future. After all, there was a lot of money to be had and to be made on the league with stars like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrick Kane to show off.

Today, the NHL signed a 10-year pact with NBC Sports Group to carry games on NBC and Versus and a deal that sees new and unprecedented coverage of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Also, expect to see a lot more hockey on your television sets in the next ten years through the 2020-2021 season.

The expanded partnership, under which NBC remains the exclusive network home and VERSUS the exclusive cable home of the NHL in the U.S., is highlighted by the first-ever national distribution of all Stanley Cup Playoffs contests, including, for the first time, exclusive coverage starting with the Conference Semifinals. The agreement also calls for the NBC Sports Group to televise 100 regular season games per year and introduces a national NBC broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday.

Black Friday and New Year’s Day with big broadcasts? Happy Holidays to everyone.

Versus will now carry up to 90 exclusive broadcasts as well, a total that’s well up from this year and all previous seasons the NHL has been on Versus.

Also part of the deal is the continued coverage of the NHL All Star Game as well as the NHL Premiere Series in Europe, and NHL Faceoff on Versus. Versus will also have an exclusive national “Game of the Week” each week. From an NBC view of things, the Winter Classic and Hockey Day In America will continue as well. You can say that we’re rather excited about all of this.

The biggest part of the deal is that it means the NHL will be set on television for the next decade and with viewership growing and the numbers of fans increasing as well as the improvement of revenue for all teams across the board things are showing consistent improvement everywhere. The exclusivity offered by this deal for the NHL across the NBC networks helped make it a virtual no-brainer. We’re pretty sure the money helps too as rights fees will now be paid by NBC to carry the NHL. That wasn’t the case since the lockout as the NHL was essentially given a big favor by NBC to carry games coming out of the lockout in 2005.

We’re excited over here for obvious reasons. Getting to bring you all content from NBC and now Versus (which will be re-named in the next 90 days according to Dick Ebersol) from the studio talents like Keith Jones, Mike Milbury, and Jeremy Roenick is a huge thrill for us because, hey we’re fans too. Being a small cog in the machine that helps bring you all this great hockey stuff is a huge thrill for us and we’re happy to be along for the ride for (hopefully!) the next ten years.