The NHL sent out a memo on Sunday night confirming the details of the shortened season and said that training camp will start up on Saturday.
It should be noted that the dates are “tentative” at this point and time, as the new collective bargaining agreement is still awaiting ratification. Right now, a “framework” has been agreed upon and teams are starting their proverbial engines to get the season underway.
On Wednesday, the league’s board of governors will vote on the new CBA.
The schedule for this shortened season will obviously look a little different. While nothing has been set in stone just yet, it does appear that teams are requesting no out-of-conference travel. That breaks down with about 30 non-divisional games and 18 games in the division. The trade deadline is expected to hit on April 5, give or take.
Much of the league’s attention will fall on wooing back the fans, if that proves necessary. Anyone who’s been around a message board or Facebook wall over the last while has run into commentary about the “real hockey” being played around Canada and beyond on little ponds and in beer leagues. That hockey has always been there and it always will be there; most of us don’t need to be reminded of its existence.
But the NHL’s lockout has rightly peeved off many fans and it may be tough to win some of them back. There has been flowery talk of boycotting a certain number of games – three games seems to be the accepted sacrifice around these parts – and talk of not purchasing hockey sweaters or hats or travel mugs with team logos.
What will the NHL do if all this bold talk turns out to reflect reality? What if they held a hockey game and NOBODY came?
Such a historic vision would never occur in these disconnected times, but what if hockey fans really did live up to their arm-flapping and word-making by acting differently? What if this lockout’s greatest gift turned out to be an understanding that the National Hockey League is a professional sports league not a happy fun-time band? It’s a business, filled with contracts and money and depraved aromas.
The realization that the NHL is a business with employees, owners, executives, and gatekeepers should be apparent to anyone – but it’s not. It should’ve been obvious after the league’s other lockouts, but it didn’t sink in. The passage of time was good for the league and it’s hard to imagine the same thing not happening here.
Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League won back its fans. I even hear roller derby did. People like sports and they like to see the pros, no offence to the little goobers playing pond hockey. But the NHL has some work to do in terms of fostering some concern toward for fans. What that looks like is not for me to say.