December 11, 2012 8:45 PM | By Jeff Hale, MSN Sports

Addition by subtraction should not be ruled out

At the least, the NHL may have to look at relocating some teams once the lockout ends


The Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets take part in the opening faceoff during first period NHL hockey action at the Jets inaugural game at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. (© CANADIAN PRESS - Jonathan Hayward)

The Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets take part in the opening faceoff during first period NHL hockey action at the Jets inaugural game at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Oct. 9, 2011.

It’s difficult to believe now, after nearly 90 days and with about 43 per cent of the season cancelled, but the NHL lockout will end at some point.

When it does, the NHL that emerges from its aftermath will be significantly changed. The best-case scenario in whatever negotiations remain in this labour dosey-doe is the league and the players head to the brink of abandoning a second season in eight years, only to pull back for a truncated schedule that means the Stanley Cup will be handed out after your lawn has been cut half a dozen times. The worst-case scenario is the league abandons the season altogether and possibly endangers the season thereafter.

Either way, it seems probable the NHL as we once knew it will no longer exist. If the owners get their way and are to be believed -- tall orders at this point, particularly the latter -- the NHL will be on solid financial footing. Then again, that was the aim of the previous two lockouts and here we are again. The players, despite churning through union leaders in recent years, have usually triumphed after each lockout, their salaries spiking since the last lockout despite the advent of a salary cap and a rollback of 24 per cent in existing contracts.  

Assuming, then, the pattern repeats after this agreement is reached, the owners will soon start probing the new deal for loopholes, to the benefit of the players. If the fans return as they did previously, the revenues will be there to cover those contracts. If there is a tepid response from the fans and an equally lukewarm one from the league’s corporate partners -- neither of which can be dismissed -- and the league will be forced to find another way to fix its internal economy. 

(Continued)
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