Since early September, tensions have run high between the NHL’s Players Association and its Board of Governors, who were unable to come to an agreement before the September 16 deadline, giving Commissioner Gary Bettman no choice but to impose a lockout on the 2012/13 season.
As the hope of an end to the lockout slowly dwindled in the eyes of eager NHL fans across the world, recovering the season seemed impossible. Despite numerous proposals brought to the bargaining table (and as many rejections from both parties), it seemed as though there was no way to work around the demands of the league or its players.
As each deadline passed without a solution, the league was forced to cancel weeks of games scheduled, including the All-Star game in Columbus, Ohio on January 27 and the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
As the fourth labour dispute in the past 20 years of the professional hockey league continued into the New Year, the final deadline date approached on January 6, which would ultimately determine whether or not there would be a shortened season to be played until June or no season at all. Somehow, despite Bettman’s statement that he was “disappointed beyond belief” with the outcome of the negotiations, the league and players were able to work out a tentative 10-year deal on a collective bargaining agreement to end the lockout and salvage the remainder of the season.
After a session that involved more than 16 hours of negotiating, the NHL and the NHLPA were able to find some common ground and make headway on a shortened hockey season to begin Tuesday, January 15, and end around April 13, which will mark the start of the playoffs. For NHL fans who had lost all hope about the possibility of a new season, this news may come almost as a miracle.
Those who never lost faith in the league’s and the players’ ability to come to an agreement are prepared to embark on a new season of game-stopping saves, slick stick-handling, sudden death overtimes and nail-biting shootouts between their favourite teams.
For Rory Bourgeois, a third-year political science student and left wing forward on the UTM hockey team, the news of the NHL’s return is a belated but much appreciated Christmas present. “I’m fired up,” he says.
Bourgeois is confident that the league will be able to steer clear of speed bumps like this in the future when it comes to league-player negotiations, and the 10-year contract comes as a reassurance to him that fallouts like this will be avoided.
“I wish they could put less emotion into the negotiations. A lot of guys sounded like they were taking it personally. The future looks bright for the league, though!”
Bourgeois, who aspires to play professionally one day, says he is thankful to have his role models in the NHL back—those who constantly inspire him to improve on his own game.