The puck has officially dropped for the 2013 NHL season following a 119-day lockout that threatened the season.
The lockout, which started just before midnight on Sept. 15, left fans holding their breath, as it began to cut into the scheduled season which was supposed to begin in October. On Jan. 12, the League and the Players Union struck up a deal and the season was saved, but not before taking away a chunk of it.
In the previous agreement that expired, the players received 57 percent of hockey-related revenue; needless to say, the owners wanted reform. After constant bickering and media backlash, a new deal was struck that split the revenue evenly between players and owners.
Both sides added their own minor details to the collective bargaining agreement, such as bumping the minimum salary to $750,000 and making teams play one international game per year at their discretion. Despite all of the constant fighting and lack of agreement on the tedious components, the CBA was made and ratified and the NHL is back.
In total, more than 500 games were canceled throughout the striking process, trimming down the schedule from 82 to 48 games. Some of the canceled games include fan favorites such as the All-Star Game and the Winter Classic.
The two feuding sides took nearly half the season away, but the chains were taken off of the facilities and the players are back on the ice, saving fans more heartbreak. Many fans rejoiced as their favorite teams returned to the ice. The regular season is now in full force and has gained some fans after a highly anticipated season opener.
Yet there are some fans who are not too pleased with the lockout and season suspension, calling it a slap in the face to the fan base.
“The greed takes away from the game, it’s sad,” junior Sam Maruscak said in regards to the state of the sport. “Hockey is so big here, [it] makes you wonder if they care about the fans.”
There is no question that fans are still upset by the lockout, especially considering this is the third lockout in roughly 20 years, all under Commissioner Gary Bettman. Many believe the only losers to come from these deals are the fans.
One of the more noticeable figures is the increase in average ticket prices. According to Buzzdata.com, the average ticket price during the 1994-1995 season, the year of the first Bettman lockout, was $33.49. In 2005-2006, the year after the season-long lockout, ticket prices jumped to $41.19.
As of right now, according to Forbes.com, the average ticket price sits roughly around $57. Another figure to look at is the attendance records in the NHL. In 2012, Forbes reported that only eight of the 30 teams did not sell at least 95 percent of their tickets during the previous season. Not to mention that attendance always rises following a lockout in the NHL, as 25 of the 30 teams saw an increase following the 2004 lockout, according to Forbes.
It leads to an interesting question: was the lockout a tool to drive up ticket sales and revenue? Considering that the NHL relies on ticket sales for half of its revenue, which peaked at $3.3 billion last year, it could be a possibility. If this is the case, the fans have a strong investment in their club and have an unprecedented power over many factors, such as ticket prices and team income.
Some even go so far as to blame the fans for the repeated lockouts because of how they emphatically responded to the return of a nearly lost season. Some, however, believe it to just be part of the business.
“Business is business, junior Matt Hessel said. “I don’t think it has changed anything on the ice…it just stops many true loyal fans from going and watching games.”
Since the current deal lasts for another eight to 10 years, could another lockout occur in the near future? If the past holds any relevance, hockey fans can likely expect another league-wide public strike to hit the NHL once again.
But for now, it’s time to enjoy hockey.