Hockey Season Down The Chute

The National Hockey League canceled what little was left of the hockey season February 16th after last-ditch negotiations between the league and the players’ union fell short.

“We weren’t as close as people were speculating,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the announcement. “This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided.”

Beginning February 15th, Bettman had given the union until 11 a.m. the next day to accept a salary-cap proposal of $42.5 million. The National Hockey League Players Association countered with a $49 million cap.

“We attempted to reach out to you with yesterday’s offer which was not linked to league-wide revenues,” Bettman wrote in a letter to NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow. “As you know, if all 30 teams were to spend to the maximum we proposed, and if the damage to our business is as we discussed at our meetings in New York, then the league would continue to lose money.”

The NHL has reportedly been hemorrhaging cash since it signed a collective bargaining agreement with the players, with 19 of the 30 teams reportedly operating in the red.

With the cancellation of the 1,230-game schedule, plus playoffs, this will be the first year since 1919 that there will be no Stanley Cup winner. Bettman said in a press conference that the league was “planning to have hockey next season.”

For some venues, NHL teams are their primary tenants, which means the loss of the season has hit them hard. For others that have minor league hockey or other major-league sports franchises, the cancellation could affect the bottom line.

The NHL’s 30-day rolling cancellation was a burden to some arenas because there was not enough turnaround time to land alternate events on such short notice. Many facilities rebelled against the policy and booked events anyway, citing a significant amount of lost capital. At least they are now free to book alternatives.

The Staples Center, for instance, is stocking up on at least a couple of boxing matches that should have been Los Angeles Kings games, along with a Duran Duran concert and two U2 dates. Mötley Crüe is scheduled to play eight NHL venues.

Meanwhile, food service and facility management company Aramark Corp. said that despite the lockout, its revenue rose 11 percent during the quarter ending December 31st from the same quarter a year before. Quarterly income rose to $72.4 million from $67.4 million the year prior.