See that quote up there? That’s not about this lockout, or the last lockout, or the lockout before that.
It’s from the 1992 players strike (which occurred in the final weeks of the regular season). John A. Ziegler (left), the small-minded president of the NHL at the time—more on him in a minute—canceled the remainder of the season and the ‘92 playoffs because the sides couldn’t come to an agreement.
“It’s a sad day for hockey, my friends. A sad day for hockey,” he said.
Then within days, there was a deal.
Happened again in 1995 with the Lockout Commissioner in his rookie lockout. Season was over. Done. It was January. It had all fallen apart. There was no hope. Ooops. All of a sudden they had a deal. A miracle!
In 2005, the script was different. The owners weren’t signing off on a deal without a salary cap. So they canceled.
These owners of Lockout Commissioner’s Lockout III just want the best deal they can squeeze out of the players, and they definitely do not want to kill this season. And there have been reports that owners have told Bettman that is not an option, and the players know this. So it will, again, take until the drop-dead date (and then maybe another day or two after that) to get it done.
It will get done. But first it will look like it won’t. I wish I could take bets with all who think there won’t be hockey this year. There will be. it will just take the deadline to get it done.
Jan. 11 deal. Jan. 19 opening night. If there’s a final snag, or a staged “sad day” moment, add two days to each of those dates.
Ziegler was roundly criticized, by me especially, for running the NHL like a Mom & Pop league, not much talk about expansion after 1967, until the WHA merger. He believed the NHL was a fan-driven league, which didn’t necessary need to “market” itself around the country, in non-hockey cities, in Europe. He didn’t believe it needed, or could get, major TV money. Some teams didn’t televise home games.
He believed that most of the hockey revenue (or HRR as they call it today) should and would come from ticket sales. And tickets, therefore, were affordable.
He never made the NHL into a big-money league, as it is now, despite little national interest, minuscule ratings, a joke of a TV contract. But he also didn’t force teams into cities where they couldn’t survive, didn’t “grow the game” to the point where regular people can’t afford tickets.
You know, as foolish as he was—and he sure turned out to be on that Easter weekend when that 1988 Jim Schoenfeld-Don Koharski fiasco went down and nobody could find the president—he wasn’t completely wrong.
Just as this Lockout Commissioner, who has undoubtedly made a lot of money for the league overall with teams in places where they won’t survive, isn’t nearly completely correct.
Getty Images photo.