In consideration of the state of the game, the economy in North America and common sense, the National Hockey League and its on-ice employees (the players) must reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The question floating in the offseason air, after the League made its intial offer to the Players Association, is will they?
Commissioner Gary Bettman and Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr need to find a way to satisfy their constituencies, while also brokering a reasonable compromise that supports the economic viability of the game.
The Philadelphia Flyers ranked third in the National Hockey League in attendance last season. Their per game average of 20,433 fans was only eclipsed by the Montreal Canadiens (21,273) and the Chicago Blackhawks (21,533).
There will always be teams, in any sports league, that aren't doing well. But, that is often true of various businesses within any franchise-type operation.
After working hard to restore their fan bases following the last labor dispute, the NHL and the players shouldn't put themselves into the position of having to rebuild trust.
The 2004-05 season was lost due to a lockout. Some may calculate that the League could survive another messy labor negotiation if the past were to repeat itself.
It would be irrational to think that the NHL would fold, or that it wouldn't be able to eventually bounce back from any standoff. But, that's not the point. The difference this time around is the economy.
Seven years ago cash was flowing freely across the United States and Canada. Most fans falsely believed that they had money to burn in the fall of 2005 as they purchased hockey tickets and merchandise, while the NHL was resurfacing their home rinks.
Don't push off the idea that a shaky economy might serve to end the lives of some franchises this time around. Enough hardcore fans should return to the healthy teams, but casual fans will drift to other entertainment choices and thus weaken their brands.
No one really knows whether logic, or emotion, will more strongly influence the ongoing negotiations in this high-stakes game.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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