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Winners and losers of the NHL lockout

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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The NHL lockout appears over. Here are some of the winners and losers from the last 113 days.

WINNER: Don Fehr. Nearly six years ago, the NHLPA fired Ted Saskin under a cloud of corruption. Two years later, they fired Paul Kelly as NHLPA head under a cloud of mistrust and with the union fractured. Enter Don Fehr in 2010. The former baseball union leader brought the players together through increased communication, and kept them together through the rough waters of the lockout. Within the negotiation, he managed to maintain as much as could be expected in a work stoppage where the NHL had all the leverage. And boy did he piss off the NHL’s lead negotiators. Mightily. His legacy will be that of a labor warrior and a guy who, despite his enemies’ protests, wasn’t committed to killing the National Hockey League for his own interests.

LOSER: Gary Bettman. We’ll never really know how bad the divisions within ownership were during the lockout. Suffice it to say, it sounds like you had important teams that weren’t in favor of the lockout, and others that supported it turning heel on Bettman as it lingered into 2013. By the end of the process, you had some owners reportedly irate that the NHL gave up too much to the players to get a deal done. Bettman again served his role well as a lightning rod for the players and a sparring partner for the media. But it was clear that he didn’t have the same mandate, and hence the rigidity, that he had back in 2005. He’s now the man who effectively lost two seasons (two halves and a whole) to work stoppages. That’s just embarrassing for the NHL.

WINNER: This video.

LOSER: This video.

WINNER: Bill Daly. An effective communicator for the League on and off the record, deputy commissioner Daly was pushed into the spotlight as the NHL’s mouthpiece as Bettman faded from controversy. He had to play “bad cop” a bit more this negotiation than in the past, but he remained someone that could offer clarity when it the League’s motivations were muddled. And the “our hill to die on” line remains a model of sweet labor negotiation hyperbole. A blue-collar voice fighting for the white collars.

LOSER: John Collins. The NHL’s driving force for innovation saw his social media efforts tarnished; his Winter Classic cancelled; his NHL.com become a shell of a website filled with junior hockey news; and the engagement he created with fans transform into apathy because of the lockout. Hopefully, the damage isn’t too great. And hopefully, Collins sticks around to continue building the League’s momentum with tech savvy fans.

WINNER: Using Social Media To Win Over Fans.

LOSER: Using Labor Boards To Freak Out The NHL.

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WINNER: KHL. The Russian hockey league didn’t completely capitalize on the influx of over 40 NHL players, but their presence was enough to get the KHL on ESPN2 and on Canadian television.

LOSER: KHL All-Star Game. OK, so you don’t get Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Datsyuk or Malkin. But you’ll probably get Martin Thörnberg, right? Uh … right?

WINNER: Scot Beckenbaugh. Federal mediation in the NHL lockout was ridiculed as a waste of time back when the process started in December. And yet there was Beckenbaugh, going between the NHLPA and NHL before bringing the sides together in a marathon session that brought the lockout to an end. We have no idea what he did, but we’ll assume it involved a lot screaming and shouting “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!” As Beckenbaugh’s boss George Cohen said, he provided “herculean assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations."

LOSER: Guy Serota. In record time, went from federal NHL lockout mediator to creepy tweeter who awkwardly flirted with Sarah Silverman and used the term “ass mode.” Was dropped from the mediation. Consolation prize: He became an international punchline.

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WINNER: Ron Hainsey. Hainsey was best known for having the kind of free-agent contract that pushed us into a work stoppage. Now, he’s seen as one of the insightful members of the NHLPA’s inner circle, providing great information during a frustrating lockout.

LOSERS: European Players. Sure, many of them went home and made bank with their teams (and in Jaromir Jagr’s case, it was literally his team), but they were so far removed from the NHLPA talks it reinforced every stereotype about the disengaged, selfish non-North American player you’ve ever heard on Coach’s Corner.

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WINNER: DregerFace. The TSN reporter’s face-meme ruled the late stages of the lockout and inspired some incredible comedy.

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LOSER: NHL Podium. Really, this was funny in concept but not necessarily in execution. We can all admit it now.

WINNER: Veteran NHL teams. The shortened 48-game season would seem to play into the hands of veteran NHL teams who won’t have to grind for the full 82 before hitting the postseason. And next year’s $63.4 million cap could mean that veteran teams won’t need to be dismantled – well, outside of a few amnesty buyouts.

LOSER: Younger Players That Didn’t Sign Their Lifetime Deal Before The New CBA. The age of the lifetime contract (and, potentially, the offer sheet) are over. The massive deals we saw signed before the lockout can’t be replicated due to term limits and variance rules.

WINNER: Eric Macramalla. His Offside Sports Law blog was always a solid read on the dense issues facing the NHL off the ice. During the lockout, he became a sports legal expert for several sites before joining TSN as a go-to source for things like disclaimer of interest.

LOSER: Steve Burton. Hey, can’t predict’em all.

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WINNER: The NBA. For taking so much of our entertainment dollars in cities that share teams.

LOSER: NBC Sports Network. Riding high after the London Olympics, NBC’s cable sports home was primed to challenge ESPN … until the NHL lockout stole its centerpiece programming option. Did ratings tank? NBC Sports Talk, its signature chat fest, hasn’t broken 50,000 viewers nationally according to Awful Announcing. Will the ratings rebound with the NHL coming back?

WINNER: Kevin Westgarth. Westgarth lifted the Stanley Cup this past June, then made his presence felt in the boardroom, doing his part to ensure that it would be lifted again next summer. The Kings' forward gave smart quotes, was well-informed, and proved himself to be one of the most thoughtful players involved in CBA talks.

LOSER: Evander Kane. Kane may not have lifted the Cup, but he too went into this lockout riding high, having signed a big-time deal with the Winnipeg Jets just prior to the expiry of the old CBA. But between a disastrous trip to Russia and a Twitter joke that fell flat on its face, Kane's reputation took a big, big hit.

WINNER: Fans of Hockey in Late June. Based on what happened in 1995, the Stanley Cup Playoffs could finish closer to July 4 than the beginning of June.

LOSER: The Winter Classic. Sure, it could come back to Ann Arbor in 2013-14 with the same plans as this season’s. But it wasn’t played this New Year’s Day, and it would have ruled that day had it been.

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