TORONTO – Despite months of negotiations, both the NHLPA and NHL owners this weekend failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, sending the league into lockout as of 12am Sunday morning. And while the news has caused outrage across Canada, the sport’s largest market, many commentators are suggesting those hardest hit reside south of the border.
For decades, American sports fans have enjoyed the security of knowing that they had the option to begin watching hockey at any point in the near future. Indeed, many Americans had become accustomed to catching a brief glimpse of a rebroadcasted Islanders/ Red Wings game at 11am on a random Saturday morning, while en route to a Star Wars marathon on TNT. And for those millions of individuals who may have eventually become interested enough to learn the name of their hometown team, or even get a four-pack of tickets by test-driving a 2013 Ford Fusion, the current lockout comes at a particularly bad time.
Another potential casualty of the current work-stoppage has been the tentative cancellation of this year’s NHL Winter Classic, the annual regular season NHL game played in an outdoor stadium. Specifically, analysts worry that without the January 2nd broadcast, which has been a huge ratings win for the league, hundreds of thousands of NCAA college bowl game viewers may be left with nothing to flip to during commercials.
There has, however, been some good news for fans; ESPN has announced that SportsCenter will replace the 90 seconds typically reserved for NHL highlights with Skip Bayless running down the top Tim Tebow plays from that day’s Jets practice.
Negotiators for both sides reconvene Monday.