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Is the NHL On Ice?

Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where leads (especially in major golf tournaments) are always safe.

NHL Players Union chief Donald Fehr (Getty Images)

Despite having the best trophy in sports (the Stanley Cup, of course), the NHL has had its share of struggles.  And now, another lockout is looming…this summer, NHL owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman are  preparing to go to war with players over a host of things, especially the percentage of revenues that go toward paying players’ salaries.  Currently, according to some reports, the number is around 58 percent (that’s high for ANY kind of business, much less a struggling sports league) – and owners say it needs to get down around 46 percent.  Yeah, right.  Posturing aside, that’s one massive difference to bridge, especially when the players have noted union boss Donald Fehr (yes, he was as responsible as anyone for the 1994 baseball strike) leading the charge.

What’s clear here is that the NHL doesn’t have its financial house in order, and that poor management over a long time will hurt the owners’ negotiating position this time around.  That’s nothing new though.  While we might take a look in future posts at how to create a better league (read: contraction!), today I want to relate a simple story.

We, here in Minnesota, live in the State of Hockey…and we’ve been starved for a winner.  Our beloved Wild went out and created some July 4 fireworks, signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million deals…immediately catapulting the talent level on the ice and expectations off the ice.  Everyone’s chomping at the bit to get on the ice and see how this team does this season…yet the lockout could stop that plan in its tracks.  The best thing for the long-term success of the Wild franchise is to get the players on the ice…and fast.  With a training camp.  And exhibition games.  And everything else as normal.

A team and league so desperate for excitement can’t afford to have any labor strife, no matter how bad teams’ and the league’s pocketbooks are.  With a lockout this year, the NHL will officially be an endangered species.  And that’s the last thing we hockey fans want to see, in Minnesota or elsewhere.  So get it done!

That’s all for now.  I’m out like the Philadelphia Phillies.

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