For the second time in eight years, there is a lockout in hockey. In 2004-05, hockey was not played in the 30 NHL venues across North America. Players went overseas and fans found other things to do.
Did anyone learn their lesson?
Players and owners went to war for an entire year only to not get anywhere. The lockout of 2004-05 was supposed to solve long-term issues with the NHL. Apparently, it did not serve any good.
And our fair city loses. This will go far beyond an exhibition hockey game.
Owners pushed for a complete overhaul of the free market system that hockey had up until 2004. Owners said they had to have a salary cap as teams like Detroit were able to outspend teams like Columbus mightily. When the two sides finally came to an agreement in July of 2005, Commissioner Gary Bettman said it brought NHL owners what they needed in cost certainty.
"An era of economic stability for our franchises, an era of heightened competitive balance for our players, an era of unparalleled excitement and entertainment for our fans,” said Bettman in 2005."Let's drop the puck on a fresh start and a wonderful future for the National Hockey League."
Since then revenues have soared, the NHL has a regular presence on both local and national television networks, and hockey has attracted new fans to the sport. But as the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” If the lockout of 2012 goes into 2013, you can count on fans not returning and thus destroying the NHL and the Blue Jackets.
The blame game for this lockout has been tossed between three people or groups; Bettman, owners, and players. All deserve some blame for this lockout without question. But many players and their union chief Donald Fehr were not around in 2005 when Bettman and the owners struck the deal with the players.
How is it that in seven short years when league revenues have increased from $2.1 billion in a year to $3.3 billion in the midst of a recession that the owners need the players to concede a lot more?
Within hours of the lockout, a number of leaders in hockey released statements. One of those came from Blue Jackets president Mike Priest. As with most of the statements released, Priest’s statement was rather generic. But one sentence stood out.
“We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience that results from this necessary action,” he said. There is nothing necessary about the action of the NHL locking out the players.
What has become increasingly obvious is the players and owners both feel they have nothing to lose by having this lockout. Owners feel victimized by their own deal they put in place seven years ago. Players have other, increasingly better options overseas.
Stuck in the focal point are the fans, businesses, and charities that would benefit from having teams like the Blue Jackets in their communities. Organizations like the Blue Jackets have struggled financially under the old terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
As result of these struggles, Columbus City Council and the Franklin County Commissioners thought enough of the economic impact of the Blue Jackets to reroute millions in possible tax funds from the new Hollywood Casino to Nationwide Arena so the Blue Jackets do not have to pay to operate the arena. This was done in an attempt to keep the Blue Jackets from looking for another home in Quebec City, Kansas City, or Seattle.
Instead, some of those players will be making their temporary homes in Moscow, Stockholm, or Berlin until the lockout concludes.
Having those players on the ice brings in millions of dollars of revenue to the surrounding businesses and keeps hundreds of our residents employed. This does not include hundreds more full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees the Blue Jackets have on staff.
Plus, there are a number of community charities that benefit from the 50/50 raffle that takes place at most home games. What are those charities going to do without being able to draw thousands of dollars from the patrons of Nationwide Arena?
Also, Columbus’ bid for the 2013 All-Star Game is now in question. During the prior lockout, the game was canceled on Nov. 3. A prolonged lockout would surely cost Columbus an opportunity to bring in millions of more funds to help pay for the arena.
With the agreement that McConnell has with our local government, he owes this community everything he has to be able to get the Blue Jackets back on the ice of Nationwide Arena. The action of locking out the players would have been sad but acceptable had the government not bailed out the Blue Jackets.
But with the scheduled start of the Blue Jackets season and the opening of the Hollywood Casino just weeks away, Columbus is paying for a hockey team that it does not have. This is not necessary.