It’s about pucking time


For nearly four months, I waited in agony for it to end. I wanted to see the players, fighting, pucks, goals, cheering fans, great saves and even the towel man to let everyone know when the Blues have scored.  This didn’t just affect the St. Louis area, but every hockey fan across the United States and Canada. Yes, I’m talking about the 2012-2013 National Hockey League (NHL) lockout.
The lockout began in the middle of September, but it’s when October came around that I started getting annoyed. It’s one thing to cut some preseason games in September, but it is a different beast altogether to cancel a good portion of the season. The commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, and the players association had nearly a month to try to get this labor dispute resolved before the puck was scheduled to drop — but they didn’t.
A lot of players were forced to play in other leagues such as Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. And domestic fans were left without hockey. What originally was supposed to be an 82-game season quickly became a 48-game season. That’s a 42 percent reduction to the regular season, which is beyond ridiculous. But Bettman isn’t the only one to blame.
These players get paid to play hockey for a living and make millions of dollars doing it. Yet, they are such babies about salaries and contract agreements. They are playing a sport they love. So why are they complaining? I’d gladly take a player’s contract, strap on a pair of ice skates and a helmet instead of complaining about it all the time. This isn’t just in the NHL either; it’s in every area of professional sports. So it’s about time athletes put on their big-boy panties and do what they are paid to do.
Let’s not forget that this isn’t the first time a lockout has occurred. The entire 2004-2005 season was canceled due to another labor dispute. No teams took to the ice, there weren’t any playoffs and the last players standing didn’t get to hoist the Stanley Cup in the air for all to see. I can still remember the commercials the Blues would put on during the following season apologizing for the lockout and trying to get frustrated fans to come back.
The fans slowly did trickle back into the seats, but I never thought a lockout would happen again. Well, at least not for a very long time.  I guess Bettman really didn’t learn from his mistakes.  He is lucky he still has a job.
After news broke that the 2012-2013 lockout was ending, the terms of the agreement were outlined.  Under the new conditions, revenue share will be split 50-50 between the players and the owners. It took a 16-hour negotiation session before it was finally resolved. Altogether, 720 games will be played over a 99-day period during the regular season that will end on April 27. The playoffs will begin three days later.
Another important aspect of this lockout is how it is affecting Webster University. The loss in advertising has to be costly for the university, because I saw a lot of Webster ads at the Blues games last season. Susan Kerth, interim director of public relations, said “primarily for competitive reasons Webster doesn’t disclose the dollar amount or structure of their advertising buys.”
Not only that, think of how many sports bars and restaurants lost money while the NHL was in the lockout. According to the St. Louis budget director’s office, St. Louis “lost more than 1.3 million in revenue due to the shortened season, with each home game estimated to bring in $65,000.”
The results of this lost time and money doesn’t just affect the players, though. Ownership doesn’t think about the restaurant owners, the people who run the concession stands, the ticket sellers, the advertisers, the zamboni drivers and especially the fans. It’s stupid. Hard-working people shouldn’t be losing their jobs over this crap every few years just because rich owners want more money.  This has to stop.
Short season or not, something is better than nothing. Plus, the Blues are on fire. They have won five of their first six games and outscored their opponents 13-4 at home thus far. I will be looking forward to going back to the Scottrade Center and enjoying the sport I love. For the first time in months, I can finally say the words I’ve wanted to say since mid-October: LET’S GO BLUES!

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