And so it's officially over.
The members of NHL Players' Association have ratified the new collective bargaining agreement, officially bringing to a close the second lockout in eight years, and the third overall in the tenure of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The deal followed some intense negotiation, which followed weeks of negotiation, non-negotiation, and gamesmanship aimed at painting the other guys as the bad guys in the fight. I'm happy it's over. While hockey never went away, the truth is the alternatives to the NHL--the American Hockey League, college hockey, Russia's KHL--just can't compete. The NHL is indeed where the best players of the world go to play. I'm happy it's over, I'll watch the games, but I honestly haven't missed it quite as much as I thought.
Anyway, it's amazing how so little can get done for so long, and then it all rushes together. With the cancellation of an entire season looming (for the second time), owners and players finally felt the economic pinch. And in the case of the players, I'm sure they were also well-aware of the ticking clock, the one that accompanies professional athletes in any sport. A year lost to a labor dispute is not just a lost year's salary, it's a lost opportunity to play the sport you love, to live out your dream. Unlike those of us who are school teachers, CPAs, or car wash attendants, professional athletes have a small window for achieving fame and fortune. Niclas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Gordie Howe and Johnny Bucyk—players who all played for 20+ years—are rare in the sport. According to Quanthockey.com, the average NHLcareer lasts 5 seasons, roughly 20% of retired players played in only one season, and for many former players, their first NHL game was also their last. While money was clearly an issue, the fact is, it's not the only issue.
Think about that for a second. A five-year career. If you knew you only had five years to write a great book, or as many great books as possible, would it change your approach to writing? I bet we'd all spend a lot less time blogging and surfing forums and so on and so forth.
Yikes. Sorry to come off sounding like such a downer. I actually started off feeling pretty good today. So, let's just toss this in there to make me feel better, one of the great ads the NHL did a few years ago (and, oh the irony of having Youtube stick an ad in front of an ad). Have a great week, all.