The news floating around concerning a possible NHL lockout as well as the uncertainties surrounding the Blackhawks won’t inspire much enthusiasm amongst Chicago hockey fans. That said Hawk loyalists shouldn’t get down concerning the outlook for next season just yet. Although, the Draft and July 1 are quickly approaching – and if nothing worthwhile is accomplished soon – it will be difficult to believe better days will be coming.
With looming changes to the collective bargaining agreement on the horizon it isn’t an easy time for NHL general managers. The same can be said for owners and upcoming July 1 free agents. Franchises which deal with the uncertainties the best will be in a position to succeed. Those who sit back and wait for the dust to settle could likely be left behind.
The best plan for the Blackhawks is to not be too comfortable no matter how long the current waiting list for season tickets. Another first round exit playoff exit or not qualifying for post season play at all would greatly dull the buzz. GM Stan Bowman should make some key additions, and hopefully he will feel a need to do so.
The Hawks will have to be aggressive if looking to acquire big name free agents and so far, Bowman hasn’t been a big spender. There are trade possibilities but Bowman may have to part with some prospects and in the past he hasn’t done so. Many Blackhawk fans are hopeful he may break out of his mold. The Hawks don’t necessarily need to make headlines with mega contract signings in coming weeks but some meaningful change is a must.
Unfortunately the outlook for starting the 2012-2013 season on time is looking bleak, if current rumblings are correct. There has been persistent chatter the NHL is likely headed for a work stoppage. Maybe the owners are just tipping off salaried employees to expect a lockout as a way of posturing to the NHLPA. Any type of delay in starting the season wouldn’t be good.
One story going around is the season won’t begin until around mid to late November, and in that case the Winter Classic could still be played. The Classic is scheduled for January 2 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The Red Wings and Maple Leafs will square off in front of an expected crowd of over 100,000.
It seems foolish for owners and the NHLPA to think fans will simply flock back despite another work stoppage and the sport won’t lose any traction in the states. Remarkably, that appears to be the case.
Maybe both owners and players are feeling too lofty about the status of the NHL. In many ways, popularity has never been higher in the United States but some perspective is needed.
Game 1 of the Cup Finals drew a weak 2.4 overnight TV rating which was the lowest for any Stanley Cup telecast since Game 4 of the 2007 series between the Ducks and Senators. NBC evidently doesn’t have the confidence to carry all the Cup games on their flagship station and that isn’t helping ratings. NBC made a decision which is curious considering their summer lineup of shows isn’t very strong, but maybe they realize TV ratings for the Finals are hit or miss.
Players and owners should realize great strides have been taken but the popularity of the NHL is still well behind the NBA. A work stoppage won’t help and as it is, the TV ratings for the NBA Draft Lottery show were higher (2.7 percent vs. 2.4 percent) than Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. There is no way to sugarcoat that ratings comparison. So before damage is done and growth slows due to a lockout maybe both sides need a reality check.
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