NHL Lockout: 5 Reasons Even the Biggest Fans Are Losing Hope

Robert Wood@@bleachRWreachrCorrespondent INovember 14, 2012

NHL Lockout: 5 Reasons Even the Biggest Fans Are Losing Hope

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    The NHL lockout is starting to drag on. 

    Tuesday marked the 59th day of the lockout, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) that, “There is nothing new, and no meetings have been planned.” 

    It is becoming increasingly difficult for NHL fans to remain optimistic. 

    Here are five reasons why the lockout is making even the biggest NHL fans lose hope.

5. Track Record

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    The current NHL lockout marks the fourth work stoppage in the past 20 years. 

    Of the previous three, all saw at least 30 regular-season games cancelled. The most recent work stoppage canceled the entire 2004-05 season. 

    This black mark on NHL history is fresh in the minds of hockey fans everywhere. As this current lockout threatens to stretch into winter, fans will be less and less optimistic about avoiding a repeat of history. 

4. European Exodus?

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    If played, the 2012-13 NHL season would mark the 20-year anniversary of the first significant wave of Eastern European players entering the NHL. The Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia had collapsed by the summer of 1992, and so the '92 draft was remembered for an influx of Eastern European players

    Eleven of the 24 players taken in the first round were from either Russia or Czechoslovakia, including five of the top 10, three of the top five and the first two picks overall. Two of those first-round selections, Roman Hamrlik and Sergei Gonchar, were still playing in the NHL last season. 

    Since 1992-93, players of Eastern European descent have remained a fixture in the NHL. According to QuantHockey.com, players from the former Soviet Union comprised 3.2 percent of all NHL players during the 2011-12 NHL season, while players from the former Czechoslovakia comprised 4.4 percent of the league. 

    But these two groups have been the most outspoken about the labor negotiations during the current NHL lockout. Czech native David Krejci said Gary Bettman treats NHL players like animals, while Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Sergei Gonchar have predicted that fellow Russian players may not return to the NHL at all. 

    Such an exodus of talent would be a devastating blow to NHL fans.

3. Cancelled Winter Classic

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    On Friday, November 2, the NHL announced the cancellation of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic

    The Winter Classic is the league's premiere regular-season event and has been wildly successful since its inception in 2008. Earlier this year, 3.74 million viewers watched the 2012 NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. That game joined the previous Winter Classics to rank as five of the six most-watched regular-season games in the NHL over the last 37 years. 

    But the 2013 edition of the Winter Classic had the potential to be even bigger. It was to be played between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, two Original Six teams.

    Only one of the five previous Winter Classics featured two Original Six teams: the 2009 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field. That game drew 4.4 million viewers, good for second-best among the Winter Classics. 

    Plus, the 2013 edition was to be held at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This mammoth stadium holds nearly 110,000, making it the largest venue used for any Winter Classic by almost 40,000 seats. 

    But most importantly, this would have been the first Winter Classic with the inclusion of a Canadian-based team. Although there are only seven such teams left in the NHL, their success is vitally important to the league. Including a Canadian-based team in the league's signature event would significantly increase the exposure of an already popular regular-season game. 

    With all this at stake, the significance of the Winter Classic's cancellation was not lost on the fans—if the NHL is willing to sacrifice its cash cow, then it is now willing to sacrifice anything just to get its way. 

2. Gary Bettman

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    NHL fans around the league hate Gary Bettman with a passion. 

    He gets booed at the NHL draft. He gets booed at the All-Star Game. He even gets booed by the hometown fans when he attempts to hand out the Stanley Cup to the winning side.

    And now, some view the current lockout as the latest entry in Gary Bettman's resume of failure.  

    Needless to say, Mr. Bettman's status as NHL commissioner does not instill confidence in the passionate and loyal fanbase during times of labor harmony—let alone times of labor strife. 

1. Donald Fehr

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    Some longtime NHL fans such as myself are also longtime fans of MLB. So for us, Donald Fehr is not an unknown quantity.  

    Donald Fehr was the representative of the MLBPA during baseball's labor negotiations of 1994-95. 

    And what happened during those labor negotiations? Well, Donald Fehr got the MLB players what they wanted. In fact, it was a landmark moment in MLB labor relations, as the league soon implemented revenue sharing among the 30 teams and a luxury tax. 

    But it came with a steep price, as the 1994 strike was a low point for baseball. The strike stretched over two seasons, cancelling regular-season games in both 1994 and 1995. Worst of all, the World Series was not played for the first time since 1904. 

    By leading to the cancellation of the Fall Classic, Donald Fehr proved to be incredibly destructive . 

    The NHL regular-season and postseason schedules are no match for the scorched-earth policies of Donald Fehr.