What are your thoughts on the NHL lockout? (with online chat)

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Fans are calling it a faceoff between millionaires and billionaires.  This week the first games of the NHL season were lost to the labour dispute.  It all began a month ago when the owners locked-out the players because they couldn't reach agreement on how much the players' salaries should be cut.

What are your thoughts?
 
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Thank you for participating, due to the volume of comments, we were not able to publish every comment.


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Introduction

When the National Hockey League is not playing hockey there are a lot of glum faces across this country. Canada's unofficial national sport ...perhaps religion ...warms the hearts and souls of many throughout the winter season, and despite the fact that skates are carving the ice and pucks being shot in arenas from coast to coast, when the best and the flashiest ...and dare I say highest-paid ....are not playing, there is a sense that something is amiss.

The NHL owners are staring down the players over money. Many fans call it a faceoff between billionaires and millionaires.

Just eight years after the last lockout when everything was supposed to be fixed in hockey, the owners locked-out the players again, because the owners feel they need a larger share of the revenue. They say there are several teams that are barely scraping by and player salaries are to blame. The players say, why take it back from them when the rich teams can more than afford to share just a bit of their revenue with the poorer teams.

Since the last lockout when players salaries were capped, the NHL went on to reap record revenues. Today's battle is about how those revenues should be divvied-up.

Where are you on this? Do you blame the league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners for a cash grab ...or do you think the players are already paid too much? How long will this faceoff last? How is this dispute going to end?

Meantime, if you are a hockey fan, what are you doing with all that free time? Perhaps you're ready to turn your back and walk away from it all and look elswhere for your hockey fix? There are many other options from Junior hockey to university hockey ...from the AHL to the ECHL. There's even minor league hockey playing out in every town across the country.

Finally what will the outcome of this dispute mean for hockey itself. The last lockout resulted in a new agreement that fundamentally changed the pay structure of NHL hockey. Many called it a success. Do you have the same level of optimism about this lockout?

Our question today to start the discussion is simply: "What are your thoughts on the NHL lockout?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.



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Looking back at the last disruption, my recollection is that as the season was coming to an end and the strike had not been settled, the fact emerged that the Stanley Cup is not the property of the NHL. There was a small discussion about the possibility of the Cup being the prize of another hockey league that year, as it is meant to be awarded to the team exhibiting hockey supremacy. Nothing came of it at that time, but it is worth examining again, especially as it is so early in the hockey season.

If a broader, public debate were to begin about which league would compete for the Stanley Cup should the NHL labour disruption not be resolved by a certain date, I think the fans would have a much greater effect on the current negotiations between the players and owners. Fans could even become more engaged by participating in a vote on which league should compete for it.

Laurie
Gabriola, British Columbia

 

I lost all interest in hockey when fighting became more important than playing. When it comes to the current lockout/strike, I say a pox on both the billionaire owners and the millionaire players.

So when it comes to hockey these days, I just don't give a puck!

Jerry
Vancouver, British Columbia

 

I would like the support the players in this current conflict purely on a numbers arguement. If a team signs a superstar knowing that that player brings a thousand additional fans to the arena everytime that player steps on the ice, that player is generating millions of additional dollars for that team.

I think that it is reasonable for a player to expect a good proportion of that money if not all of it. A thousand tickets over an 80 game season is worth 5 to 10 million dollars.

Ken
Delta, British Columbia

 

I suppose there is always the risk of the accusation of collusion against the owners, but if the owners don't want to spend the money on big contracts, then don't pay it. Tell the player's agent during negotiations that there isn't the money to pay for the contract being asked for. Why should anyone blame the players for merely participating in the free market system? I'm sure the owners are quite committed to a free market system -- except when it comes to their hockey teams.

The owners need to do a little more internal decision making amongst themselves as to how their portion of revenues should be spent to equalize the load amongst the teams. Why should the workers pay the penalty for internal organizational bickering? It still gets me that there are so many people out there blaming the players.

The ranks below the NHL can put out a pretty good grade of hockey. Let the people go to watching more amateur and lower tier pro teams. Let's see some of that on Hockey Night in Canada.

John
Fort McMurray, Alberta

 

I consider myself a hockey fan, although I don't pretend to know all the nuances, etc. I am a diehard Maple Leafs fan, but I am 71 years old and wonder whether I'll live long enough to see them take another Stanley Cup.
 
The one thing I have to say is please stop calling it a "product." It is a game, it should be thought about - and spoken about - that way. Right now, the whole issue is a fight over a product and what it should cost. Some callers referred to their local leagues as a "product" as well. 
 
Let's change the language and talk about the "good ole' hockey game".
 
Maureen
Toronto, Ontario

 

The only people for whom I have sympathy in this lockout are the folks working in support roles who are making no income as a result of the lock-out -- the ticket sellers, ushers, concession and souvenir booth personnel, etc. Those people have done nothing to deserve this pay loss and no doubt are suffering significantly throughout this ordeal.

Stephen
Ottawa, Ontario

 

After awarding a raise to the players and owners, perhaps some of the pot needs to be awarded to the fans, in terms of decreasing the exhorbitant ticket prices.  The fans need a seat at the table as they are the taxpayers here, so to speak.  They pay the wages of the players and owners.

Ken
Rossland, British Columbia

 

It occurs to me that the hockey industry in Canada and the U.S. is quite large.  Taking into account all the peripheral industries such as stadiums, restaurants and bars, merchandising, travel, media etc, the employment multiple is in the thousands and perhaps tens of thousands. Generally if there is a nationwide industrial disruption of this scale, there is a response from all levels of government, and this seems to be absent. We have the billionaires and millionaire holding us all hostage. Should hockey not be an essential service in Canada?

Dom
Victoria, British Columbia

 

My husband and son are both "hockey-mad" guys, the sort who live and breathe hockey stats during the regular season. Interestingly, they've responded in a similar fashion re the lock-out: "Are you KIDDING? This is GREAT!! Think of all the time I've gained to do all those things I never have time for during the season: going to films and plays, watching DVDs at home, heck, perhaps even going to the opera, ballet, or symphony!"  It goes without saying that each is aware that a lack of hockey-viewing will likely translate into more "quality" time in their close relationships.

My hubby also expects the quality of his sleep to improve; no longer will he be staying up late to watch the Hockey Highlights on TSN, no longer will his heart be racing as he listens to the results. Instead, he can crawl into bed next to me, and snuggle in for a good read.

Finally, my son has lived in the UK for six years, yet he has always stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to listen to the live play-by-play of Canucks games via the internet. As goofy as it may sound, this has been an important link to home for him, and he's both highly annoyed and really frustrated with the loss of this connection. His response is an ironic, "Thanks guys, for all my loyalty over the past 27 years."

Kim
Vancouver, British Columbia

 

This lockout has not affected us at all. I am a fifth generation Canadian, grew up watching and playing hockey as did my husband, avidly. I resent the constant rhetoric that states hockey is in our DNA as a nation.  We have three boys, none of them interested in playing or watching  hockey. This is a hockey mad area, but we didn't like the culture or atmosphere in children's hockey, so chose not to encourage it. Our kids have been active in cross country running, nordic skiing, swimming and soccer. We don't feel any less Canadian, so lets get beyond this preoccupation that Canada is defined by a singular sport.

Barbara
Owen Sound, Ontario

 

While I do miss the NHL hockey, I would encourage hockey fans in Toronto, Boston, Montreal and Alberta to go and watch the CWHL (Canadian Women's Hockey League) for their fix of high calibre live hockey. You can find schedules here at the cwhl.ca

The season starts next weekend, here in Montreal we will host the Boston Blades for games on Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets cost a mere $10 and the 2 teams boast more than 20 Team Canada and Team USA members between them.  Anyone who watched the women's games between Canada and the US during the Olympics or the World Championships knows that this is hockey of the highest calibre, fast, robust, and intense.

The CWHL is a relatively young league, run predominantly by volunteers, none of the players are paid, and the staff and coaches get a very modest stipend to cover their expenses. I dream of a day when the women can also make a living off playing, if you come to a game you will see that they deserve it. 

I am the Community Outreach volunteer for the Montreal Stars, and I can tell you that these women play with so much heart and so much talent, at considerable expense to themselves, that I, personally, find it tough to feel particularly sorry for NHL owners and players squabbling over their millions.

Fiona
Montreal, Quebec

 

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