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Do owners even care?

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is one of the hardliners on the NHL's side of negotiations. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is one of the hardliners on the NHL's side of negotiations. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Another Friday means another edition of the THN.com mailbag. You probably know the routine by now, so I don’t have to explain to you how I answer a selection of your submitted questions here, in our magazine, and on THN Radio, right? Great. Thanks to all those who took the time to inquire.

Hi Adam! Do you think that NHL owner's confidence of their fanbase's return is justified? From my point of view, I consider the growth of Hockey Related Revenue to be a result of a new fan base, and so-called new generation. And I, being one of them, can't seem to find any reason to support the NHL anymore. Or to be exact, support the owners of NHL teams.

Living in Finland, I have no chance whatsoever to see a NHL game in person. So, I enjoy the NHL experience through NHL's free game highlights, Youtube or several other free ways of watching. Given these new channels, how can the owners' expect us to come crawling back to pay for their merchandise? They have shown us their true goal in this sport: they want to make money, preferably at the cost of fans and arena crews. I only care for the thrill of the game. The feeling that the game can give to a spectator is just so incredible that it should not be just about money.

I understand owners are businessmen. But have they not ever felt the thrill of the game? Don't they understand what they are doing here? For future generations who don't know the game, this period is one of greed. It makes a mark on the game. It makes hockey feel like another business to exploit.

This is a long epilogue for a question, so to put it shortly, can't the owners see what they're doing to the game, or do they just not care? I've once heard a speech about the integrity of the game. It was meant for basketball, but I feel that it affects hockey as well. Its integrity should not be compromised. The sport has so much more to give to people than just paychecks or profit. Best regards,
Miika Haapalainen, Oulu, Finland


Hi Miika!

You’re not alone in your feelings, or your suspicions hockey fans will react with much more fury than they did after the 2004-05 lockout and choose to no longer financially support the game when this standoff comes to an end. The way fans rushed back last time obviously gave owners all the confidence they needed to assume it would happen again, but there’s no guarantee that will be true.

That said, I don’t think you can lump all NHL team owners into the same philosophical boat, just as you can’t look at the opinion of one NHLer and argue the entire players’ union feels the same way. There are moderates and hardliners in both groups, people who would probably sign the current offer from the other side right this minute.

But clearly, the owners have decided they’re OK with all the hate and nastiness that’s abounded in the hockey world since this process began. I’m sure many of them do like players, just not enough to make more serious overtures toward ending the battle against them.

Hey Adam! With all the news on the latest lockout taking up the sports channels air time, I haven't heard many trade rumors about Roberto Luongo lately. What are the chances that after the lockout, he will be shipped away? And where could he end up?
James Theriault, Saint John, N.B.


Hey James!

As I briefly touched on in last week’s mailbag, I believe he’ll be traded relatively quickly once the lockout is over and I think he’ll go to the Maple Leafs. After their ugly collapse late last season, Toronto desperately needs a front-line goaltender and Luongo is their only real option.

Luongo does have some say in his destination thanks to his no-trade clause and Canucks GM Mike Gillis has been steadfast in his public demands that he receive a quality trade package in return for a star netminder.

However, given the distinct dearth of teams interested in acquiring Luongo’s mammoth contract, it’s more likely Gillis takes what he can get – my guess would be a second-or-third-round draft pick, a serviceable current NHLer and a mid-tier prospect – before the season begins.

Hi Adam. Why can’t NHLers sign in the American League during the lockout?
Damien Drake, Toronto


Hi Damien,

Once NHL players exhaust their American League eligibility, they become full-fledged members of the NHL Players’ Association. As such, they aren’t permitted to sign a contract with the AHL, as that league’s collective bargaining agreement is with a different union (the Professional Hockey League Players’ Association which also represents players in the ECHL and Central League).

Hi Adam. My question is, who should the Blackhawks get as a second line center? It has been a major problem ever since their 2010 Stanley Cup-winning season.

Patrick Kane started off last year in that role and was OK early, but struggled as the year went on. He's a great offensive talent, but can't play the whole ice and defend against the opposition’s best offensive player. Thanks.
Sidney Brown, Chicago


Hi Sidney,

First thing’s first: Kane had an off year last season – for him, at least – and still is only 24 years old. I don’t doubt for a second Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will give him another shot to redeem himself in that role. If he’s still not working out in it, maybe Chicago elevates David Bolland to the second line; he’ll never give you points by the bucket-load, but his two-way game is excellent.

Other than internal improvement, there are extremely few options for the Hawks on the trade/free agency front. For starters, they’ve got approximately $5.75 million in available salary cap space – and that’s only if the upper limit remains the same.

Even if they wanted to spend that money on a free agent, none of the remaining UFAs (led by near-the-end veterans such as Jochen Hecht, Daymond Langkow or Jason Arnott) represent a promising solution. And to trade for a clear second-line pivot, GM Stan Bowman would have to sacrifice some serious talent. So I think they’ll give Kane another shot, then look to some prospects down the line.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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