By Josh Engel
Back in September, the third NHL lockout of Gary Bettman’s term as commissioner started. Much of the issues involved labor disputes and salaries. The players’ union, or the NHLPA, could not successfully bargain with the owner and a lockout resulted.
There were many consequences of the lockout: shortened season, cancellation of All-Star events and many drastic roster changes. Normally, each team plays 82 games in the regular season, but the lockout shortened it to 48. The All-Star game and competitions were part of these cancellations. The Winter Classic is an outdoor game played once a year, and that was cancelled, as well.
These alterations to the 2012-13 season left many fans upset and led many to declare the season illegitimate or unimportant. When an agreement finally reached, the NHL resumed full force having to deal with the changes and agreements.
The biggest issue that people face is the shortened season. This is a reasonable concern for just about everyone. It would be frustrating to any fan that there are fewer games in the hockey season to watch. Everyone gets paid less with a shorter season. The teams also play each other less, and have less time to learn how they play. The shorter season also has a significant impact on the playoffs. A shorter season means that there is less time to prepare for the playoffs. Injuries often play a big role in the playoffs, and there is less time for people to get injured. It is hard to see how the shorter season does not have a negative impact on the legitimacy of the season.
Another concern of the lockout results is the cancellation of the All-Star events. The NHL recently adopted a new style of determining All-Star teams. Captains are appointed and they choose their team. The cancellations set back the implementation of this new style. Also, the All-Star events give the players a break and a chance to have some friendly fun. The All-Star events, especially in hockey, are very popular with the fans. The NHL’s annual outdoor game, the Winter Classic, was also cancelled because of the lockout. The Winter Classic was going to be played at the Big House at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and was supposed to have one of the largest crowds for a hockey game ever. These effects are not as detrimental, but are still honest convictions for why the season is less legitimate.
The last big concern people have about the lockout is the roster changes that resulted from the lockout. A lot of veterans saw that it was time to retire because of the lockout. Thomas Holmstrom of the Red Wings announced his retirement at the end of the lockout. A lot of players chose to go play in Europe in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). This affected a lot of teams in the NHL because when the season started, many players were in another league already. Fans watching their teams play definitely notice quite a few new names.
With all of these concerns, it seems that the NHL season suffered legitimacy losses and all types of support. However, the season is just as legitimate and important. There are many specific points to back this up, but there is one recurring point to consider: everyone had to deal with the changes. The modifications to the season do not affect the end result because each team had to adjust to them. The effects were equal for everyone. Not only were they equal, but they put an interesting twist on the season. The twist is putting teams on an equal starting point to win. How a team handles the lockout could bring one of the worse teams out on top. Last season, the top three teams were Vancouver, the Rangers and St. Louis. Currently, the top three are Chicago, Anaheim and Montréal. The lockout opened up doors for struggling teams to rise to the top.
Initially, one may think that the shortened season has the biggest impact on legitimacy, but it actually has the least. Each team still plays the same amount of games, has the same amount of time to adjust rosters and has the same amount of time to get injured. The playoffs are still the same, but there is just a shorter amount of time for everyone to get prepared. There are no unbalanced effects, and it could be more interesting when teams have to prepare more quickly. The All-Star cancellations only affect the actual dynamics of the season is the break that the players get, but this does not matter with a shortened season. The roster changes also affect everyone equally. Maybe not everyone had the same amount of changes, but everyone had to adjust one way or another. It also brought many opportunities to minor league players to move up to the NHL.
The arguments against the legitimacy of the season are very clear and quite reasonable. However, they do not justly demonstrate illegitimacy to the season overall. The season was shortened, but this biggest change impacted every team the same amount. The All-Star events were cancelled, but they are not vital to the outcome of the season. There were significant changes to rosters, but every team had to adjust. People’s negative judgments of the 2012-13 season are the result of a lack of openness. The fans who do not approve of the season just need to be more open-minded. The effects of the lockout have to be faced by everyone equally. Just because the season is different than normal does not mean that it is not legitimate.