"We believe that we're paying out more than we should be," commissioner Gary Bettman said. "It's as simple as that."
Although the NHLPA doesn't see it that way, the objective is clear: get a deal done before September 15. If it doesn't happen by then, the NHL will go into a lockout. The unfortunate part is that the real negotiations have yet to begin.
So what would happen if there is another NHL lockout? For starters, fans would abandon the game. I don't really mean fans in Canada, Detroit, New York, Chicago, Boston, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I'm talking about fan bases that are starting to grow. Fan bases like Carolina, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, San Jose and Nashville. Look at the NBA last season compared to 2010-2011. The average attendance dipped by 47 fans. Yes, that's a marginal number. But when you talk about teams like the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings and the Brooklyn (New Jersey) Nets barely being able to fill their arenas now-a-days, it certainly presents a problem.
If fans abandon the game, then TV ratings will drop. Not as many people will watch the Stanley Cup Finals, which has seen a steady increase in ratings over the past six years. This would prove to be bad news for NBC, who owns the rights to broadcast the NHL. It needs another hockey season to happen this year in order to continue that momentum. Without it, they can't compete with the likes of the NBA, MLB and NFL (Although no one can really compete with the NFL at this point). Considering the rising popularity of both MLS and UFC, the NHL can't afford to be left behind in this market.
The NHL also has a huge global fan base outside of North America and that fan base continues to grow. A lockout could halt that growth in other global markets. The NHL wouldn't just lose revenue through ticket sales and TV ratings. They could lose it through merchandise, endorsements and sponsorships as well. Another factor would be that people that work for certain NHL teams wouldn't have employment under a lockout.
These next few weeks will be vital for the overall growth of the NHL. Both sides of the spectrum will have to come up with a resolution and they'll have to come up with one fast. Otherwise, they'll be shutout by the competition.