While the 1994-95 lockout didn’t cancel a season altogether, former New York Rangers GM Neil Smith told The New York Post that it represented a significant missed opportunity.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the air got let out of the balloon by the lockout,” Smith said. “It’s undeniable that the lockout of ’94 lessened hockey’s chance of climbing the ladder.”
The Rangers were on the heels of breaking their Stanley Cup drought, prompting Sports Illustrated to wonder if the NHL might leapfrog the NBA in relevance.
Smith admits that he didn’t defy Gary Bettman on any noteworthy subjects during that lockout, but wistfully wonders what could have been if there was a typical 82-game season.
“We would have had a better season,” Smith said. “We were waiting to raise the banner, which didn’t get raised until around Jan. 21. You win on June 14 and wait until Jan. 21 to put the banner up?”
“It’s harder to get everybody serious about a 48-game schedule with ‘Hey, we have to defend our Stanley Cup’ that long afterward.”
(One cannot blame Los Angeles Kings fans for cringing after reading that last line.)
An abbreviated season would be better than no season at all, but Smith has firsthand knowledge about the damage dealt by a shortened campaign.
(Photo via Getty Images from NHL.com.)