No Hockey, No Fun


By Eli Locke

Sentry Staff Reporter

For us Washington Capitals hockey fans, this offseason was a long 113 days. Since the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup and were crowned National Hockey League (NHL) champions on June 11, 2012, marking the end of the 2011-2012 NHL season, not a single game had been played until January 19, 2013. Up until recently, the National Hockey League Player’s Association (NHLPA) and the owners of the NHL teams spent those 113 days in a series of sometimes pointless, sometimes heated and always tedious negotiations pertaining to a new collective bargaining agreement.

The 2012-2013 partial lockout marks the third of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s controversial career. In the 1994-1995 season, half of the season was lost. A decade later, the entirety of the 2004-2005 season was lost, and when Bettman told the NHLPA he had no problem canceling a second consecutive season, the players’ association quickly compromised. Now, Bettman and the NHL owners are once again back to their old tricks.

During the 2011-2012 season, the NHL accumulated 3.3 billion dollars in profits. Under the collective bargaining agreement that expired on September 25, 2012, the players kept 57 percent of that 3.3 billion dollar profit, while the owners only got 43 percent.  When the time came to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, commissioner Bettman and the owners went toe-to-toe with the players and the president of the NHLPA, Donald Fehr. These negotiations lasted for several months, and as the two sides approached the early January deadline, the possibility of any season at all seemed improbable.

The result: a 50-50 revenue split between the players and owners, and thankfully the end of the lockout and the labor negotiations. However, in that time the NHL lost a staggering 625 regular season games and more than a few hundred million dollars in expected revenue. The NHL began a 48 game season on January 19 (a regular NHL season contains 82 games).

One similarity of all three lockouts has been that the owners, not the players, have rejected renewing the existing bargaining agreement. This season marks the third time the owners have demanded a larger share of the revenue and a smaller share of the revenue for the players. As the players stayed seemingly united under Fehr all throughout the summer and into the winter, rumors of disagreements between the owners and Bettman resurged every time negotiations went south. Finally, with a federal mediator in place, the players and owners reached a deal to salvage the second half of this season, which many students have been longing for since last June.

Locally, the players of the Washington Capitals took many different paths during the lockout. Former NHL Most Valuable Player Alexander Ovechkin chose to play overseas in Russia alongside fellow Capital Nicklas Backstrom. Many Capitals decided to stay close to home, keeping in shape by partaking in regular skating sessions on the ice at the Ballston Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Other young Capitals draft picks were sent to play with the Capitals’ minor league hockey affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Along with inauguration weekend, the resurgence of the NHL certainly generated fervor and rekindled passion among Capitals fans at school and all over the D.C. area. Such displays can be seen in the hallways, with many students wearing Capitals shirts on any given day. Also, the famous “Capitals shrine” in the room of Advanced Placement Environmental Sciences teacher Michael Zito is a testament to the zeal of Capitals fans. Whether you are a season ticket holder, bandwagon fan or looking to get interested in a new sport, one thing is for sure: everyone is elated that hockey is back.