As NHL Lockout Continues, League’s Reputation and Local Businesses Suffer Biggest Losses

For hockey fans everywhere, the NHL lockout has been a huge source of frustration, as games up to November 30 have been cancelled, and this includes the Winter Classic which was to be held in Ann Arbor, MI at the University of Michigan’s Football Stadium. The game which, for those who don’t know, is an annual contest held outdoors was to be an Original Six match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leaves.

The lockout started on September 15th, with the expiration of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the NHL owners and players were unable to come up with a new agreement before the season started. Owners want to reduce players share of revenue, introduce term limits on contracts, eliminate salary arbitration and change free agency rules. For the Players Union’s part, they want to increase revenue sharing between owners and want a fixed salary cap that is not tied league revenues. This lockout marks the third in 19 years for the NHL since commissioner Gary Bettman took the job in 1993.

As of Monday, the lockout has reached 57 days, and despite a whole week of negotiations, nothing was achieved. Sunday night saw a 90 minute discussion about such things as contract length, year-to-year salary, and timeline of restricted and unrestricted free agency. Although both sides have moved slightly on some issues, they have yet to come up with an agreement.

The lockout has caused hundred of games to be cancelled, along with enormous amounts of revenue losses, along with immense damage to the NHL’s reputation, which was evident in the 2005 lockout in which it took several years for teams to build their fan bases back up. Both players and owners are losing money with the cancellation of games and it is widely reported that neither side is willing to give in until they get a fair deal.

But while the two sides duke it out losing each other money, it is easy to forget they are not the only ones losing out on revenue. Local businesses have taken just as substantial a hit as the owners and players, possibly an even bigger one, as most owners have enough capital and funds to hold them over until a new deal is made, and players have many opportunities to play professional hockey both in the European Leagues and in the American Hockey League. But local businesses don’t have the luxury of going overseas or falling back on reserve funds, for they depend on the revenue that NHL games bring in.

From local bars and shuttles to hotels, the lockout has cost local businesses around the nation to have substantial profit and revenue losses. Where they would normally be entertaining crowds of hockey fans, they are now forced to find other means to bring in patrons, such as concerts or other entertainment. These new attractions however can’t fill the fiscal void left by NHL fans. For example it is projected in Detroit that local businesses in the downtown area lose $2 million per game that the Red Wings don’t play this season. In St. Louis, local bars and pubs have resorted to alternative entertainment, but owners don’t only miss the money that St. Louis Blues fans bring in, but the level of excitement that comes with them, and what they add to the atmosphere.

This lockout is a battle of two powerhouses in the NHL owners and the players union, and after a 57 day stalemate, it is clear neither side is looking to let up any time soon. As arguments over millions of dollars are hashed out, the reputation of the League is taking even bigger losses. With this lockout coming so soon after the most recent one in 2005, the fan base is going to suffer as it will take years to build fan bases back up, no matter what decisions are made. What ever is done it is clear however that local businesses are taking the brunt of the losses. From Detroit, to Pittsburgh, to St. Louis local businesses are hunkering down for the long haul and looking for any means in which to fill the void that has been created by this lockout.


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