A seven-hour meeting between NHL and NHLPA representatives yesterday has renewed hope in fans that the two sides are finally getting down to business as we reach Day 53 of the lockout. Better late than never.
Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada wrote in his weekly “30 Thoughts” column yesterday that if the league and players are able to get a deal done soon, and get games going by December 1st, he could see the league adopting a schedule with somewhere between 70 and 80 games. With the Winter Classic already cancelled, he also believes the All-Star Weekend will be scrapped as well, freeing up more space for additional games.
This is great news. The fact the league and players met all day yesterday, and are meeting today as well, has to mean they’re at least making up some pretty significant headway towards making a deal.
A 70-game schedule beginning on December 1st is much more manageable than, say, having to play 66 games starting Christmas Day, which is what the NBA did last year when their lockout ended.
The NBA schedule included multiple back-to-back-to-back games, which turned out to be very grueling. Hardcore fans were surely aggravated by having to endure five weeks of no basketball, but it didn’t end up affecting the casual fans too much, who usually don’t really pay attention to the Association until Christmas anyway.
It ended up being a great year for the NBA, with LeBron James winning his first title with the Miami Heat, a marquee team. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, another team with three young stars led by Kevin Durant, in the Finals. The season set all kinds of record television ratings, proving once again that lockouts aren’t necessarily a bad thing for a league’s bottom line.
Now the NBA is back again this year with more hype and excitement than ever. The league is filled with marketable stars, the quality of competition for most teams has increased, and with the NHL locked out, more hockey fans are checking out basketball to help satisfy their sports fixes.
This might sound like bad news for the NHL, but it’s not like hockey’s going to be surpassing basketball ratings in the U.S. anytime soon anyway. Instead of dragging these negotiations out so long that the season ends up being too short and sports fans become even more apathetic, they seem to have learned a thing or two from their basketball counterparts a season ago and are finally getting their acts together.