Point/Counterpoint: Is the Lockout hurting or helping the league?

Welcome to the newest edition of “Point/Counterpoint,” where a pair of Flyers Faithful scribes present both sides of one particular issue with their own unique view and flair.

This week, Kim P. and Craig F. debate whether the NHL lockout will hurt or help the league in the long term.

Point: Kim P.

Let’s face it: despite the fact that the fans are absolutely furious (and some even apathetic at this point) over the lockout, the National Hockey League doesn’t seem to be suffering very much. If they were, these recent talks would have happened earlier than this past week. There will still be millions of fans who will pay to see their favorite teams play when the sport returns, millions who will buy merchandise, pay for Center Ice, so on and so forth. So even though there hasn’t been a game since June, it doesn’t look like the lockout is really hurting the league, right? Wrong.

The league is losing money, and fast. It’s not phasing them yet, because they have so much to spare, but if there isn’t a season, they’ll be losing plenty more. And while I personally don’t think there are going to be that many people who will actually boycott the league upon its return, there more than likely will be. Teams will lose money on ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise. Sure, for every fan that leaves the sport, eventually more will join it. But the effects could go much deeper than we think.

In an article published last week in the Tennesseean, reporter Joshua Cooper analyzed the potential effect a lockout lasting an entire season could have on the Nashville Predators. The weaker-market teams are struggling, and even ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun expressed his concern on the matter:

“And in a comment that I’m hearing more and more from people on the ownership side, I’m not sure the NHL returns with 30 teams on the other side of a lost season. Can the weaker markets truly survive this? That’s damage both sides would feel.”

That’s not a loss of profit from ticket sales or merchandise sales. That’s the loss of an entire team. Just think about that for a second. Think about a city whose revenue would plummet. All of those arena workers out of jobs. A city without a team.

The NHL would surely lose money if this were to happen. More than that, they would absolutely lose fans if this was the result of the current lockout. The league’s reputation would be tarnished and it would just be a mess.

Let’s hope that these current negotiations actually lead to a compromise, before the risk of this becomes even greater — or, worse, before this becomes a reality.

Counterpoint: Craig F.

The league should have acted quicker over the Summer and should have worked harder towards a new deal rather than casually waste away days in August and September. Instead of meeting for 60 or 90 minutes, there should have been weeks of day-long meetings like there were a few weeks ago when, once again, NHL fans’ as a whole believed that we’d actually see our teams on the ice in 2012-2013. Unfortunately for the league and us, they didn’t, so now everyone is embroiled in this mess. Either a deal needs to happen soon or the season is over. Quite honestly, I know I’ll be back even if I don’t see the Flyers on the ice until October of 2013.

The thing is, yes, it would be horrible for a team like the Nashville Predators to be completely wiped out. As a fan, I couldn’t imagine the pain of seeing my team being eliminated over something that was out of my control. Those people working at the arenas during the games are another group of people you can’t help but feel bad for. However, speaking from the perspective of the NHL, the league could relocate a team if needed.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t play a single game this “year,” do you think nobody will come out in 2013-14? How about the Montreal Canadiens? Winnipeg Jets? Would you never go to a Flyers’ game again if they don’t play this year?

The point is you will, Leafs fans will, Habs fans will, and so on. The diehard fans of the NHL will come back no matter what. Fan bases like Florida, Phoenix, and Columbus may struggle, but several teams will recover in a timely manner. However, that recovery time may be longer than it took for the league to recover from the 2004-05 lockout. That may be a long time, but it would be better than a third season lost to a lockout or three or four annoyingly-shortened seasons over the next 15 seasons due to Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

The league should do what they need to do to iron out a deal that makes both sides more than happy. If that means a lost 2012-2013, that may be a painful necessity.

A respected, accepted deal that both sides love should eliminate another shortened or lost season years from now when they run into this exact issue again. A deal of that caliber won’t happen by being pressured into signing a contract both sides don’t like within the next two weeks. It will take time, but it’s time that we, the true fans of the league, will appreciate down the line when we experience a string of successful CBA talks and witness the string of fair-weather fans return to the sport yet again.