The Florida Panthers were originally set to open this NHL season at home at the BT&T Center on October 13 but the NHL has other plans.
The NHL announced on October 4 that all regular season games through October 24 were cancelled due to their current labor dispute. Up until now the players and teams haven't lost any revenue due to the NHL lockout but now it's official; people will lose money and the fans are in danger of losing NHL hockey for this season.
The NHL Players Association's Executive Director, Don Fehr is quick to point out that this doesn't have to be the case. Under the rules of the old collective bargaining agreement, the season could be conducted under the old CBA until a new agreement is reached. NHL Commissioner Gary Batman and the league's owners had other ideas and instituted a player lockout until a new CBA is agreed upon.
Effects on South Florida
The lockout not only cripples the Panthers' revenue stream, but it also cripples the fan base who is excited to see the team, who went on a run last season and won the division championship for the first time in over ten years.
The Cats have a lot going for them right now but the lockout may throw all of that off track. Small market teams like the Panthers are supposed to be the teams that Batman and the NHL are trying to help but in the long run, I think they're unintentionally harming small market teams and their fans.
There is a community in Sunrise that depends on the Panthers and their fans. On September 18 the Panthers' organization announced several layoffs in the organization and cited the NHL lockout as a reason.
I don't blame the Panthers. After all, there's no reason to keep a large staff when there may not be a season. Other businesses in the community that may suffer include the shops in the Sawgrass Mills Mall, which is located directly across the street from the BT&T Center.
Effects on the Players
The lockout has displaced almost as many players as it has fans. Panthers players Marcel Goc and Dimitry Kulikov have both returned to Europe for the 2012-13 hockey season and while there is a good chance they will return when the lockout ends, there's no guarantee.
For the players who haven't returned home yet, they have been permitted to rent ice time at the Saveology.com Iceplex, where the Panthers practice in the regular season. No matter what happens with the CBA, the players still need to stay in good hockey shape.
There's no way to tell when or if the NHL season will start. The two parties seem miles away in their labor dispute. The one thing that is for sure is, the players aren't getting paid, the fans don't have any hockey to watch and people are out of work in Sunrise. If things aren't settled shortly, there may be more fans that give up on this small market team in South Florida.
More from this contributor:
All information on European contracts from TSN.ca
Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein
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