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Who emerged as the winner after the NHL labor dispute?

January 07, 2013
  • Hockey fans watch players practice at the Philadelphia Flyers' training facility Monday, a day after a tentative deal was struck to end the labor dispute that had threatened to wipe out the entire season.
Hockey fans watch players practice at the Philadelphia Flyers' training… (Matt Rourke / Associated…)

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss who came out on top after the NHL's extended labor dispute, which appeared to come to an end with a tentative agreement on Sunday. Feel free to join the conversation with a comment of your own.

Harvey Fialkov, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Although NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the greedy owners got their 50-50 hockey-related revenue split, a 7% percent decrease for the players, NHLPA leader Donald Fehr got the better of the deal on maximum length of contracts, next year’s $64.3-million salary cap and a more defined pension plan.

The empty rinks stuck it to arena workers and ancillary businesses that depend on game-day patronage. Bettman stuck a knife into the backs of its TV partners by wiping out 480 games, including All-Star weekend and the Winter Classic.

Once again it’s the sports fan who gets the short end of the hockey stick. Hockey is a religion in Canada, but in the U.S. more fickle fans will take longer to be won back and pried away from the NFL playoffs, NBA and NCAA Dance.

Overpriced lawyers always win, but NHL owners, Bettman, Fehr and hockey fans can turn to Canadian comic Jim Carrey and hold up a big ‘L’ for Looooooooser!

Matt Vensel, Baltimore Sun

No one won this labor dispute. Yes, the owners and players came to their senses in time to prevent a second canceled season in eight years, but there are no winners from the NHL lockout.

The high-paid athletes who play the greatest sport on earth look greedy, and the millionaires who pay their salaries look even worse. And once again, the loyal fans were cheated — this time out of half of a season.

The diehards shouldn’t come back right away, but we will. Both parties knew that all along. But the reputation of the NHL -- which had been nearly restored due to rule changes since the last lockout and because of exciting young players to market -- has been soiled to casual fans.

The league I love is once again a national punch line, and I can’t blame anyone for laughing at it.

[Updated at 12:49 p.m., Jan. 7:

Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune

The easy answer is that there were no winners following 113 days of rhetoric, pandering, confusion and money-grabbing.

But in the interest of not ducking the question, when the dust settled on the utterly embarrassing affair, the owners came away as winners. When you hold the keys to the arenas, you hold most of the cards and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman played them to the point where he squeezed every last dollar he could from the players before reaching an agreement.

There’s no question the NHLPA scored some victories -- most notably a better pension plan -- and certainly did not get steamrolled like it did in 2004-05 as this time around it had Donald Fehr doing the negotiating and he proved a worthy adversary to Bettman.

Still, when the end result means 7% less of a share of hockey-related revenue, limits on contract lengths and players losing almost half a season of salaries while waiting to get back to work, the owners are the ones who came out on top.]

[Updated at 2:07 p.m., Jan. 7:

The winner? There is only one winner in all of this: Kings fans.

It was bad enough that Kings fans had to wait what seemed like 1,000 years for a Stanley Cup title, but then to have the banner and ring ceremony delayed on top of that? Too cruel, NHL. It made the title seem like an oasis in the desert. Did it really happen? If the Kings win the last title in NHL history, does it make a sound?

Other than that, no one won. The players made a lot of concessions to get a deal done. The owners came across like Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly game mascot who is always asking for your money when you draw a Community Chest card. Come on, Uncle Pennybags, you have enough money, do I really have to pay a $15 poor tax?

Of course, a month from now, most arenas will be packed, goals will be scored, and Kings fans will wonder if the Kings can repeat. Until this all happens again when the new agreement expires.]


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