A number of people in the hockey industry, including a good number of my colleagues, believe there will be hockey played this season and the NHL will be up and running by the middle of January. For the record, I’m going to stick with my prognostication that there will be no NHL hockey this season.
But if it’s to happen, both sides are going to have to get cooking with gas very, very soon. Amid speculation that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players’ Association counsel Steve Fehr met face-to-face on Boxing Day, we can expect talks to begin in earnest early next week.
With the NHLPA’s Jan. 2 deadline to file disclaimer of interest, both sides are going to have to develop a sense of urgency if there’s going to be a deal done. A source close to the situation said the NHL’s drop-dead date for a 48-game regular season is Jan. 20. That means both sides would have to have a deal agreed to and voted upon by Jan. 12. That would leave time for a seven-day training camp before the start of the season.
Essentially what it will come down to is whether or not the owners are willing to make an agreement they don’t necessarily like in order to simply salvage the season. If they are, and a further pox on their house if they do another deal they later whine about, then getting a pact with the players should be relatively easy at this point. If not, then we can kiss the best league in the world goodbye until the fall at the earliest.
Some random observations and thoughts after taking my two sons, a niece and a nephew to the London Knights 9-4 win over the Windsor Spitfires Thursday night:
• Dale and Mark Hunter own a license to print money. I originally had other plans Thursday night, but when those fell through, I called the Knights looking for five tickets. I was told five had just opened up, but they were “premium” priced tickets. So here’s the final bill for the evening:
- Five tickets at $33 each = $165
- Four slices of pizza at $4.50 each = $18
- Three pops = $12
- Package of Milk Duds = $4.25
- Chocolate bar = $3
- ATM fee = $2
- T-shirt = $33.89
- Total cost: $238.14
- Total cost per person: $47.63
I didn’t even think of having a $10 beer. There were 9,046 people at the game that night. You do the math. Even if each person, including his/or her ticket, spent two-thirds per person what we spent, that means the Knights made almost $300,000 in revenues from just one game.
• It was ironic that two of the best players on the ice, Max Domi of the Knights (two goals) and Kerby Rychel (2-1-3) of the Spitfires, are sons of former NHL heavyweights. In fact, in a combined four seasons in the OHL, the two players have totaled just 154 penalty minutes, which is a little more than half the 292 Tie Domi had all by himself with the Peterborough Petes in 1987-88. Even though the younger Domi needs some work in his own zone – his team won by five goals, he had two of them and still managed to be minus-1 on the night – his stick skills and hockey intelligence are off the charts and his skating is something to behold. And for his size, he’s very difficult to knock off the puck.
• Speaking of enforcers, Ty Bilcke of the Spitfires earned his ninth fighting major of the season, which means he has only two more fights before an automatic two-game suspension kicks in under the Ontario League’s new rules to curb serial fighters. It was a shame that Bilcke used up one of his on a senseless fight. In the third period, he chased Knights defenseman Paxton Leroux down the ice after Leroux laid a hard, clean hit on Spitfires forward Michael Clarke. By the way, anyone who thinks the new rules have not had an effect, fighting is way down in the OHL this year and Bilcke is bound to have significantly fewer fights than the 37 he had last season. That’s more fights than 18 NHL teams had in 2011-12.
So Nail Yakupov calls Canadian hockey players “dirty” and Don Cherry responds with a nasty tweet aimed at Yakupov. And this is big news? Words fail me… Went into a sporting goods store two days after Christmas and noticed you could get a Carey Price mini-stick for $29.99. For a mini-stick, you know, the ones kids use to play in the hallways of hotels during out-of-town tournaments. But at least it was a one-piece composite. A Sidney Crosby mini-stick would only set you back $24.99… Once the lockout is settled, the league should mandate that all 30 teams cannot raise regular season ticket prices for a period of two seasons. NHL teams have cost certainty. After what they’ve made their fans endure, that’s the least they could give back.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.