Ice, ice, baby! Hockey season begins

The rink lights up. The alarm sounds. The players burst onto the ice ready to skate anew. The crowd roars, and the puck drops. The 2012–13 National Hockey League lockout is over.

After roughly 113 days of debate, hockey fans can at last rejoice as the 30 teams that make up the NHL return to the rink.

“I am really relieved that the lockout ended,” said New York Rangers fan and senior Tali Raphael in an email interview. “After there was no deal by Thanksgiving, I was really thinking there would be no season.”

The NHL Board of Governors and the NHL Players’ Association agreed on a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement in early January. Changes include a new contract term limit of seven years, a 50­­-50 split of hockey-elated revenue between players and owners, a new payroll cap at $64.3 million and a cap on contract salary variance at 35 percent.

Additionally, every non-playoff team has a chance to win the top pick in the draft lottery — originally, this was reserved for the bottom five teams.

“The owners won this tussle,” commented Forbes analyst Patrick Rishe. “(However,) the players ended up retaining far more perks than I ever believed they would.”

The question remains: will the league bounce back?

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman estimates that the overall league loss per day was between $18 and $20 million, with players losing $8 to $10 million. However, players are now earning an average of $310,000 less per person because of the 50­-50 split of league revenue.

The total number of games has decreased due to the lengthy lockout. This season will consist of 48 games, just under 60 percent of the normal count of 82 regular season contests.

In catch-up mode, teams are working hard to attract fans they may have lost during the lockout.

“I know many teams have made a concerted effort to reach out to the fans and make games more accessible, especially in the early stages of the season,” said Sports Information Director and Assistant Director of Athletics Dave Walters in an email interview. “My sister and I had our best seats ever at the Carolina Hurricanes season opener thanks to a 50 percent discount on opening night.”

Raphael suspects that viewership and fan interest will pick up near the playoffs.

“I’m really just glad to have it back, even if this season is going to be a mess,” Raphael said. “The sport gets going during the playoffs, where it shows its best.”

Skeptical fans worry that a lockout may occur again, especially after the newly made 10-year CBA expires. There are a number of visible ways to fix the problem.

“The way I think we can prevent future lockouts is by getting rid of Bettman,” suggests Raphael. “Bettman has dealt with three lockouts in his tenure as commissioner.”

Other fans call for understanding on both sides.

“I think the players need to stand together,” Wijnands said. “And the owners need to listen to the more moderate voices within their ranks.”

Hopeful fans, however, see a simpler solution.

“Don’t be greedy,” Walters suggests. “Live peaceably with a spirit of trust and good faith.”