While we may (or may not) be paying attention to how the NBA is locked out without any progress, we’re reminded about the NHL’s troubles back in 2004-2005 when the owners locked out the players themselves. That lockout was devastating to the NHL in that it canceled an entire season and saw the Stanley Cup not handed out.
With memories like that and the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHLPA expiring after this season, some are already getting nervous about how things will go this year and over the summer. After all, those wounds for NHL fans run deep and are all too fresh in our minds. Seeing the NBA go through what the NHL did just six years ago gives us reason to pause and hope there won’t be a repeat of that disaster.
One guy who isn’t worried about things is Boston Bruins players representative Daniel Paille. Paille might be new to the leadership position, but he says that the players remember what went down before and see how the NBA struggles are affecting their league and how they can’t follow the same path.
“We’re one year away, so we’re in the same position where we’re going to have to make a decision, but I feel confident [of avoiding another lockout],” Paille added.
Paille believes both the players and owners understand that the league can’t afford to have another stoppage after working so hard over the last six years to overcome the damage of the last lockout. Still, negotiations are likely to be contentious as player salaries have continued to rise despite the implementation of a hard salary cap.
“I think both sides know what’s at stake,” Paille said. “I think just having two lockouts in a row, especially one after the other, is not healthful on either side. I think hopefully both sides realize what’s at stake and realize that we want to build the fans base and the way to do that is to keep playing.”
Continuing to play hockey would be a really smart idea. After all, the NHL is in a position to perhaps gain a few more fans with the NBA figuring their business out. They’d also be wise to not further infuriate fans who came back after the 2004-2005 lockout again. There’s a cliché that fits well for this situation: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” A lockout after the 1994 season managed to kill off part of the 1994-1995 season while the 2004-2005 season was wiped out entirely.
The one line from this that Paille and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman share when it comes to this topic is about how potential problems are a year away. We understand that their minds are focused more for what’s directly ahead for them and the upcoming season, however they have to understand where the fans’ minds are at. Fans don’t want to see a work stoppage again and with former MLBPA head Donald Fehr in charge of the NHLPA, everyone’s more than a bit nervous. After all, Fehr was in charge of the MLBPA when they canceled the World Series in 1994.
We’re not advocating giving fans lip service, but we hope that they’ll understand why fans will get grumpy if there’s no progress on matters as the season wears on and potentially into the summer. Players and executives certainly don’t want to be talking big business when there’s games to be played, but let’s hope that lessons learned are still fresh in their mind.