When talks of another lockout began I swore that Sunshine State Hockey would not feed the egos of the National Hockey League, its commissioner, the owners, or the players association by publishing articles talking about the childish argument over money that may very well lead to another missed season. I decided last night, after seeing players like James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets use the hashtag #thefans on Twitter, that I had finally seen enough and it was time to speak my mind about this dollar sign duel. Being a fan of hockey, and more importantly the NHL, for almost 15 years means that I had the displeasure of experiencing the 2004-2005 full season lockout. At this point, since both sides have retreated into their holes without any common ground, it is a very real possibility that another 82 game lockout may be on the way.
Obviously this is something nobody wants, not even the greedy owners or players. The NHL generated record revenues last year, so missing out on the 2012-2013 season would be a big blow to a league that took so long to recover from the previous lockout. Let us also not forget about the success of non-traditional teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers during 2011-2012. Florida won their first ever SouthEast division championship and qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 12 years, gaining ground in a crowded sports marketplace while, just three short months ago, the LA Kings won their first ever Stanley Cup by putting together one of the most dominant playoff performances in NHL history. There is no doubt that any type of a lockout would hurt the momentum built by both franchises last season.
The most interesting aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement arguments is the fact that fans are actually picking sides because they actually believe the league and its players care about them. I think it has become pretty obvious at this point that the only thing both sides care about is the almighty dollar. Of course this should come as no surprise considering the fact that the NHL is nothing more than a business, just like all other professional sports’ leagues. As fans we always here “it’s just the nature of the business” or “that’s the business side of the sport for you”. Just like in 2004, we are being given a strong example of what those quotes truly mean.
I already picked my side in this fight months ago when the talks began to pick up. My allegiance is not with the billionaire owners who offered ridiculous contracts to overrated players, only to now demand that those athletes get paid less money. At the same time I refuse to side with a players association that represents $100 million, 10+ year contract holders like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Ilya Kovalchuk who base their arguments around the saying “we only have a limited time to earn money while owners continue to do so”. I proudly support the people stuck in the middle of this battle, the fans and the arena workers that do not make billions or millions of dollars.
The NHL and NHLPA seem to forget the fact that money does not grow on trees. Obviously it must be hard to remember that with all of the “big money” walking in and out of the meetings once a week. The majority of fans for any professional sport come from middle-class families. Even yours truly has trouble paying the price for full season tickets each year, and I live in one of the cheaper hockey markets. I always find a way to because my love for the game is stronger than any price tag attached to it. One would think that if both sides loved the game as much as the fans that they would find anyway possible to play, just like we find anyway possible to pay. It is disappointing to think that hard working fans who choose to spend their money on the NHL might not get what they paid for.
If anyone believes for a second that they will easily get their money back from their favorite team if there is a lockout think again. Unless things have changed since the 2004-2005 no-season anyone who wants their cash back will have to put up a big fight to get it. During the last lockout I had purchased season tickets before the season was cancelled. Once Gary Bettman made the announcement on February 9th, 2005 I had requested my money back from the Florida Panthers, only to be denied. After weeks of arguing back and forth with my ticket representative and COO Michael Yormark they finally agreed to give my hard earned cash back to me, in $100 monthly installments. I cannot confirm if other NHL teams handle their business the same way or if Florida still does, so anyone interested in tickets might want to ask before making a purchase.
As fans we have every right to speak our minds during this frustrating time. We pay thousands of dollars to support our favorite teams and players every year, only to get a slap in the face each time the CBA expires. My recommendation for every angry hockey fan is to do everything you can to have your voices heard. Call, send e-mails, write letters, and meet with those in charge of your favorite team and the league (if possible). Tell them how you truly feel about this greedy disagreement between the NHL and NHLPA that is keeping fans from watching the greatest game on earth.
I will wrap this up with a video that has been making its way around the hockey community. Janne Makkonen, the freelance video editor from Finland that was featured on Sunshine State Hockey back in January (here), has released a new masterpiece regarding the current CBA/lockout situation. The video is titled “Together We Can #nolockout” and sums up the feelings of every hockey fan frustrated by this mess. Please watch, enjoy, and do not forget to speak out against those trying to take our favorite pastime away from us, again.
Source: (Janne Makkonen’s YouTube Channel)
The fans in South Florida have been waiting a very long time for their hockey club to make another trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time the Florida Panthers were involved in the post-season Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Sony released their highly anticipated PlayStation 2, and yours truly was 12 year’s old. Thanks to General Manager Dale Tallon, rookie Head Coach Kevin Dineen, the entire Panthers staff, and the 2011-2012 roster no one has to wait any longer to see the Cats play some extra hockey.
While the Panthers fan base has every right to be excited they should also be worried about their teams’ first round opponents. The New Jersey Devils are one of the most balanced teams in the National Hockey League. They have a quick striking offense, a shutdown defense that can trap any club in the neutral zone, and one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, Martin Brodeur. Florida will definitely have their hands full in this series and it will take a complete team effort to even have a legitimate shot at making it past the well structured Devils.
The Florida Panthers were led offensively by the top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Fleischmann until their opponents began to figure out how to shut the trio down. After that, around the halfway point of the season, it was up to everyone else on the roster to provide balanced scoring. That is exactly what happened as Florida got offensive help down the stretch from players such as Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc. Shockingly Fleischmann was the only one from the former #1 line to stay consistent throughout the entire 2011-2012 season, registering 27 goals and 61 points, while Versteeg and Weiss did very little in the final two months. The Panthers will need their top three forwards to produce at the level they did before and the rest of the club will have to keep up the balanced scoring if they want to keep up with the powerful New Jersey offense.
The Devils enter the first round match-up against Florida with three 30 goal scorers on their roster. Ilya Kovalchuk (37 goals), Zach Parise (31 goals), and surprisingly David Clarkson (30 goals) all had a great 2011-2012 regular season offensively and look to carry that success over into the post-season. New Jersey, much like the Panthers, also had balanced scoring outside of their big three led by the resurgence of Patrick Elias who picked up 78 points in one of his best seasons in the last three year’s. Put Elias together with Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus and the Devils have six forwards that are going to keep the Florida defense very busy.
Advantage: New Jersey
When the Panthers entered the 2011 off-season they already had a fairly impressive defensive core that included veteran Mike Weaver and youngster Dmitry Kulikov. Add them together with All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell, former Panther Ed Jovanovski, and rookie Erik Gudbranson and Florida has one of their best D-core’s in franchise history. Of course when discussing the Cats defense it is important to mention the biggest surprise on the 2011-2012 Panthers roster, Jason Garrison. #52 had a major breakout season, finishing third in goals amongst all defensemen in the National Hockey League with 16. Florida’s D-men will have to jump in offensively all series long if they hope to continue the success they had in the regular season.
The New Jersey defense was anything but offensive this year, and that is going to be a problem for the Florida Panthers. The Devils have one of the best shutdown groups in the Eastern Conference, playing opponents into the classic NJ trap that the team has been famous for. This stingy style of play certainly helps an aging Martin Brodeur since he doesn’t have to face many shots on a nightly bases. Let’s also not forget that a solid defensive group plays an important role on the PK, and New Jersey has one of the best in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Devils react to Florida’s offensive minded defense and how the Cats handle going up against NJ’s shutdown crew.
When the Panthers began the season everyone thought that their weak point would be in net. Thankfully all of those people were dead wrong. Florida got strong goaltending all year long from surprise starter Jose Theodore, veteran backup Scott Clemmensen, and even rookie Jacob Markstrom when Theo went down with an injury. Truthfully if Florida did not have the good goaltending they would have lost a lot more games. The netminders, especially Theodore, absolutely need to stay solid between the pipes in this series.
It’s strange to think that the Devils have a question mark in net going into the post-season but age will do that to a person, even if it is Martin Brodeur. The legendary keeper hasn’t played his best post-season hockey in recent year’s and that’ll definitely be an issue for the Devils if that trend continues. Marty will have to stay strong in net and rely on his defense to keep the Panthers from getting to him.
The members of Sunshine State Hockey predicted that this series will be a long one with Florida coming out on top. Will the Cats be able to hold off the powerful Devils offense? Will Broduer live up to his legendary status? Will Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann return to early season form? All of these questions and more will be answered when the Panthers host New Jersey at the BankAtlantic Center tonight for game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Puck drop is 7:00 PM EST.