NHL lockout's winners and losers
I know, I know. Put everyone in the "losers" column for this word salad and just leave it at that. The NHL lockout was a miserable experience for everyone involved, leaving it bereft of any true winners. But some people and things came out of it looking at least as good or better than they did before all the fun started. No, not as many as you'll find in the loser column, but it's a lot easier now to find loosely-defined winners than it was during the wee hours of Sunday morning when bleary-eyed media in New York waited for word of a deal and seemingly millions of people followed on Twitter, hanging on every word out of the toxic CBA talks.
Scot L. Beckenbaugh. Can we just forward his Nobel Peace Prize nomination to Oslo right now? I'm dead serious. Anyone who could have settled the rancor between the owners and players deserves a shot at the honor. Beckenbaugh, a federal mediator who once settled a strike between cereal workers and management, worked his peacemaking magic again between Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. About a week ago, when hope for an NHL season was truly starting to appear lost, Beckenbaugh stepped in and convinced the battling parties that the situation could still be saved, and he was right. He was roundly praised on both sides for his calm Midwestern manner and ability to cool the temperature in the room when it was at its most combustible.
Sidney Crosby. He wasn't involved in the talks during the final days, but he played an important role during the lockout and gained a lot of respect from his fellow NHLPA brethren for his cool, principled stands for his side. Crosby always seemed ready to lend a hand to the process, eschewing an easy job on a European or KHL team. The word many used to describe his conduct during the lockout: "leadership." Crosby's Penguins teammate Craig Adams can be put in this same category, along with Kevin Westgarth of the Kings, George Parros of the Panthers, Daniel Winnik of the Ducks, Ron Hainsey of the Jets, and Coyotes captain Shane Doan.
Twitter. What was the world like before everyone could follow anything going on from anywhere in real time? The die-hard fans who stayed up during the final hours of the lockout were rewarded with instant communication from numerous reporters who were on hand in New York -- and some, like yours truly, who actually first broke the news of the lockout's end from a living room in Denver. Hockey people were staggering by how many people were still up before dawn on Sunday morning following the play-by-play on Twitter. It used to be that reporters would hang on to a good scoop for hours, waiting for the next day's newspaper to get the news out there. Now, it's out as fast as their fingers can type, and people who are ravenous for instant information are the winners.
Small-market teams. They got the salary cap ceiling ($70.2 million prorated for 2013; $64 million for 2013-14) and floor ($44 million) lowered for next season, and they'll get more money in revenue sharing ($200 million) from the big-market teams. They also got a more equitable system for signing free agents, thanks to contract term and variance limits. Of course, by the end of the CBA, the cap floor could easily exceed the current ceiling, based on revenue projections. But for now, it's easier to be a small-market NHL team than before.
Edmonton Oilers. They had all their best players playing in the AHL or in Europe. Four of them -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle -- skated together in Oklahoma City. While most other teams will have to wear nametags to get to know each other again, the Oilers should be a lot better prepared than most to drop the puck.
The lawyers. They always win in these things, of course.
Anyone whose livelihood depends on the sport. In Colorado, a hockey bar in Fort Collins, a place called Hattrix, was forced to close Dec. 1 partially because of the lockout. Thousands of other workers in. arenas lost needed income. In Boston, it was estimated that the local economy lost $1 million for every canceled game.
Los Angeles Kings. Just when the team was poised to really grab a much better hold on the L.A. area thanks to its Stanley Cup win, it had nothing to promote or capitalize upon for several months. The Kings will still get to raise a banner on opening night and flash their shiny rings to the fans, but the lockout killed a lot of the buzz for hockey in L.A.
Teams that didn't plan well for the cap next season. The increase conceded by the league during the final days of talks -- up from $60 million to $64.3 million -- will help the richer teams that already have big payrolls get under the cap more easily. So will the two amnesty buyouts they'll be afforded. Still, teams such as Boston, and Philadelphia will have some tough choices to make with their rosters entering next season.
New coaches. There are four incoming bench bosses -- Adam Oates (Capitals), Bob Hartley (Flames), Ralph Krueger (Oilers) and Michel Therrien (Canadiens). They would usually just be getting their new systems nicely in place by this point in a normal season. Now, they'll be trying to cram in everything in a very short amount of time.
Guy Serota. Before he ever got the chance to be the Scot L. Beckenbaugh of the lockout, he was hastily removed as a potential mediator because of some bizarre, tasteless tweets attributed to his account.
The fans. Of course.
And a final word about Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr: They shall remain conspicuously absent from either the winners or losers column. Both men "won" things for their side, but they also probably came out tainted from being heavily associated with this grimy mess. Fehr found out that rolling NHL owners was not at all as easy as it was in Major League Baseball, yet it can rightly be said that his patience (OK, stall tactics) paid off in great concessions from the league in the end. Bettman got his owners a seven-percent gain in all future revenues, along with more favorable contract rules. He also lost his cool while dealing with Fehr, and of course saw a third work stoppage in his soon to be 20-year tenure. Maybe neither man really lost. But they certainly didn't win, either.