NHL Developments to Keep an Eye on in November
There isn’t much happening on the professional ice, but there is still plenty to follow in the sport. Even though the NHL is on a game-cancelling spree, it doesn’t mean you have to be bored in this extended offseason.
Your favorite team might not be playing and your favorite player might be scoring in Russia. But these 10 developments, combined with a turkey dinner, should fight off your hunger until December.
Cancellation of the Winter Classic
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Earlier this week, ESPN reported that the NHL is ready to cancel the Winter Classic on November 1. This is huge news because, with the game cancelled, there is no urgency to get a deal done.
If the league is ready to throw away one of their largest money-making events, and one that drives the most buzz, then they’re in it for the long haul. There is no reason to have much hope of hockey being played this season if that game is scrapped.
Cancelling this game two months in advance seems premature. If it's hitting the news cycle this quickly, I would assume that it has some weight to it.
Injuries in European Leagues
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Hockey is one of the most physically demanding sports out there. Despite the endurance and cardiovascular strength it takes, there are also pretty large men sliding at high speeds on sharp metal blades hitting you into glass and ice.
Needless to say, there is a mighty high physical toll you have to pay in order to succeed in this game. With players on your favorite teams taking hits for someone else, many fans are worried and checking injury lists daily.
New Jersey Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov injured his foot recently playing in the KHL. Jaromir Jagr was one of the biggest free agent signings for the Dallas Stars and he missed some time with an undisclosed injury.
The one thing most sports fans know is that an undisclosed injury usually means it is something that can be focused on by opposing players. That injury can also nag the player for quite some time. Developments like this should worry anyone with a favorite player putting in time with another team.
Who Is Producing?
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Chances are your team’s best player is playing somewhere. Many people want to see how those key players are producing.
Whether you’re looking to see if one of your rookies are playing up to their potential in the AHL or if you want to see if your stud forwards are scoring on what can be considered lesser talent, you’re watching some box scores.
Right now, fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins are probably looking for live feeds of Evgeni Malkin putting on a clinic in the KHL with 24 points. What makes Malkin’s stats more impressive is the fact that he is doing what he did last year, with a bunch of people he doesn’t play with on a regular basis.
The League's Hard Stance in CBA Talks
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A week ago, there was still hope for a full 82-game season. We are not even out of the same calendar month and there is fear there could be no season at all.
The NHL submitted a proposal, and like every negotiation, there was going to be the inevitable counter proposal. Bettman and Co. did not want to budge on what they considered a fair offer.
Instead of working with their deal as a framework and building off of that and the three counter proposals from the NHLPA, the league just rejected the proposals and haven’t been in any hurry to enter new meetings with the players.
NHLPA Winning the Media War
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In any work stoppage the only people who truly suffer are the fans. With what happened last week, the NHL blew a golden opportunity to gain ground in the war of media perception.
The owners could have kept up negotiations with the players, but instead they did a move reminiscent of every argument between children.
The NHL didn’t get their way, so they went home and took their toys with them.
In this case, the toys would be the regular season games that were cut off the schedules. Now, fans were sitting there between their two buddies wondering what happened when they went to grab a drink.
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If it were up to the people, Gary Bettman would be replaced as commissioner. And he would most likely lose to Emperor Palpatine in a landslide, even if the Emperor ran on the platform of making the league all storm troopers.
The point being, fans just want to see hockey that isn’t being broadcasted from the other side of the world. If this lockout drags on too much longer, the fanbases will start seeking entertainment elsewhere.
Both sides need to realize that the fans are what make playing a game professionally, all the while profiting millions of dollars at the same time, a reality.
If the Winter Classic is cancelled and there is no end to the lockout in sight, the fans will start falling away. The fact that it took so long to recover from the last lockout and missed season should scare both sides, because this time there could be even less of a fanbase returning.
Interesting Player Movement
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Keep an eye out for player movement. One Twitter follower recently asked me if I was worried that Loui Eriksson put his home up for sale.
The optimist in me says that it is just him dumping his property before the tax man shows up and he has no income. The pessimist in me says he is returning home to Sweden.
There is no evidence that either statement is true, but that is just one example of what can set a fan into panic mode.
If the Stars don’t have Eriksson even for a month, their playoff hopes are in jeopardy. And if they don’t have him for a season or longer, they will only have hopes of getting out of the top five in the draft.
Small Market Owners vs. Big Market Owners
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There is a huge difference between owning a team in Los Angeles and owning a team in Tampa Bay besides time zones. The difference in local media deals and exposure can be what separates a few millions of dollars in an owner’s check book.
That crosses into all sports. Just ask yourself this one question: Have you ever met a Jacksonville Jaguars fan? That’s not to say they don’t exist, but they aren’t as numerous as New York Jets fans.
The fact that some small market owners are losing a hefty chunk of their money, especially when compared to what larger teams make off of merchandise sales alone, there might be a crack in the owners’ foundation.
Once the grumblings start with the small market owners, there could be a push to get a deal done sooner than later. The sad part is that Don Fehr probably knows this, so the waiting game has started.
If you want to read into the giant leap in the 50/50 revenue split offer from the last proposal, there is a chance that this has already started.
Waning Interest in Hockey Overall
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Maybe you’re a diehard Penguins fan and you want to watch Malkin play in the KHL. Well if you’re a Pittsburgh local and the game is at 7 p.m. in Moscow, the puck drops at 11 a.m. so you'd better call in sick.
You’re in Los Angeles? Hope your car gets a satellite feed.
Since hockey isn’t present in everyday life like it normally is, means for most it fades into the background. Like with the fan perception previously mentioned, this loss of interest could ultimately be fatal for the league.
The old adage of “any press is good press” will be biggest factor in keeping the NHL afloat if an entire season is missed.
Hockey Losing Ground to Soccer
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Soccer is blowing up in the United States. Before the 2004-05 season was lost, the NHL was considered part of the major four sports in America. Now many people consider it to be in a tie with the MLS, and even more perceive it to be behind soccer completely.
State-of-the-art soccer stadiums are being built and the sport is gaining ground due to international play. This opens up the possibility to the NHL becoming the new odd man out.
The only thing that is carried on major networks less than hockey are MLS matches, and that isn’t as big of a gap as many think.