Tonawanda News

Columns

September 23, 2012

DUVALL: In NHL lockout, the blame is one-sided

Tonawanda News — To absolutely no one’s surprise, the National Hockey League’s owners have locked out the players, the league’s third work-stoppage in 20 years.

The last time around, fans mostly sided with the owners, agreeing that player salaries had gotten out of control and that a salary cap was needed to put all franchises on a more level sheet of ice. The players resisted and the result was the Stanley Cup never being engraved with a winner in 2005.

With that memory still fresh in many fans’ minds, the general response I’ve heard this time is to lay blame more or less equally on both sides. Resist that temptation. This lockout is solely the owners’ fault.

In the seven seasons since the owners eventually wore down the players and got their wish for a salary cap, league revenue has doubled. The salary cap, which is set at 57 percent of league revenue, has increased from $35 million per team in its first season to $70 million now. 

Listen to reviled NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and times have never been better for the NHL. Seven different teams have won the Cup in the last seven seasons. A longshot bet in turning down a pathetic TV offer from ESPN and awarding broadcast rights to upstart network Versus paid off big-time when Versus was purchased by NBC and converted into the NBC Sports Network. Hockey’s appeal as a cheap but powerful draw in Northeast media markets made for a landmark 10-year deal that has the NHL calling the Peacock home.

After its success here in Western New York, the annual Winter Classic outdoor game is a legitimate sports spectacle and has wrestled the sports world’s New Year’s Day attention away from college football and onto the NHL’s biggest stars.

So why would the owners risk forfeiting all that momentum with a lockout? The answer is simple: greed.

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