Hockey Apocalypse: Mad Chris Beyond The Mayans?

Not even Tim Thomas could have seen this coming or did he? (File Photo/Flickr)

 

Today we bring it back, the wildly acclaimed “Hockey Apocalypse”.  Thanks so much to Buddy Oakes because without him this idea never even gets off the ground.

As promised thanks to Buddy and I….here are parts 1 and 2 in their entirety with an addendum. Enjoy this gem from the 2009/2010 season.

The following is not likely to happen but I want to preface it as such. Keep in mind, that there is no protecting of the innocent because there is no such thing as innocent in this case. One of the first things I learned when I started this little idea over the weekend and that is what it was at first is the following……

Literally you never know what can happen at any time or any place. Like I have said and will say it again. There is a potential that the following could occur. If you piss off too many people and burn too many bridges…it does come back to haunt you. Yet the NHL never seems to learn its lesson. Unlike the MLB and NFL, the NHL does not have the revenue streams to compensate for their misgivings and foul-ups.

Part one and Buddy probably did not know this but from the piles of rubble that are my brain. Here is Buddy’s classic in its entirety from Preds On The Glass and the Columbia Daily Herald:

After a couple of tweets with The Program’s Chris Wassel yesterday, I got to thinking a bit deeper about the worst case scenario that could result from the deepening rift between the NHL and the NHLPA in the upcoming labor negotiations.

Let’s say things continue their downward spiral in Phoenix and one way or the other Jim Ballsillie does not receive a franchise. This leaves Jim with a bruised ego, plenty of money to spend, and a serious desire for revenge against Gary Bettman and the NHL owners.

Ballsillie immediately appeals the initial ruling and files some type of anti-trust action against the NHL. While the case is moving at a snails pace, he decides to start a four team “Make It Seven” type league of his own with teams in Hamilton, Winnipeg, and a couple of other Canadian cities that will begin play next season (2010-2011). He overpays a few free agents (just like the KHL and WHA) and actually gets a product on the ice and makes it through the first season.

By the summer of 2011, the NHL and the NHLPA have stalemated and a lockout looms. Owners have decided not to sign players for a season that is unlikely to happen because they want to take advantage of a new “controlled cost certainty” system that they are willing to risk losing a season for as part of a new agreement.

At this point, the economy has made a turn for the better and credit has loosened. Big Jim sees the opportunity to expand his league and adds eight teams with four more in Canada and teams in New York, Boston, Chicago and Detroit. Many top unsigned NHL players with the urging of their agents, who see fresh money, decide to give it a go in the Jim league since the NHL arenas are dark for another season.

ESPN has been enamored with all the controversy and they never liked Bettman anyway. They pick up a few games in the new league that do better than expected in the ratings and then at mid-season sign a deal with Jim that gives him a few more dollars (American) to play with.

Meanwhile, Bettman, the NHL owners, and the other players are sitting on the sideline wondering what happened.

From here, you can let your own imagination run wild as to the eventual outcome, but I would imagine that Big Jim would own a team in the revamped/merged NHL and would carry a lot of weight in the circle of owners that survived the lockout and anti-trust meltdown/settlement.

 

And now Part Two of the hockey apocalypse….Road Warrior style.

So as the hockey bombs were tossed in midair. A thought came to my mind. Bettman sometime in 2012 (The Mayan end of the world) starts to think it might be time to talk merger turkey with Jim Balsillie. Imagine the thoughts running through Balsillie’s head as he remembers all the times the “gang of eight”, Bill Daly, Gary Bettman, and company ruined his chances to own an NHL franchise. All Balsillie really wanted was a team of his very own in Canada and maybe he was too brash for his own good but the bottom line is the Jim league is a runaway success with no shootouts or god awful gimmicks.

The league is officiated much more efficiently than the NHL. Less controversy and ESPN notices this quickly. It is like old style early 1990’s hockey and they love it. After the first fraction of a year, ESPN signs a 5 year extension with JB giving him some deep pockets to go after Bettman and the NHL. Slowly more players get ready to cross as the free agency period heats up for the upcoming 2011-12 season. Gary Bettman realizes he better get an agreement now before its too late.

The reality is it already is way too late. Players are looking to sign with the Big Jim league and the product is what entices them…not necessarily the money. By now one year into the lockout, the NHL has lost too much money and too much credibility to be able to rise from the ashes this time. The mushroom cloud appears poised to explode on what was the NHL. Just imagine the big red cloud in the sky and no its not from Russia with love but out of nowhere the Russian players who were too ticked off to play in the NHL come in droves to Big Jim’s league. Gary Bettman even now sees the writing on the wall and cowers in fear as Bill Daly tells him it is time to surrender.

From there all the anti-trust lawsuits and ugliness seem like a distant memory. What is left of the NHLPA and NHL comes crawling to Jim Balsillie. It really is like the dog that just got left out in the streets to fend for itself. Ragged and bruised and beaten…the NHL and NHLPA beg for a merger with the Big Jim league which now has expanded to 12 teams with 4 more slated for the 2012-13 season.

All Bettman can do is try and find a way to merge his 30 teams with this league. Unlike the WHA where there were only a few teams….this merger takes some time. However it does eventually happen and Bettman is basically forced out with Bill Daly as a temporary commissioner until a more suitable permanent can be found. By the 2013-14 season…the new NHL with 30 teams is on ESPN and the product looks circa 1993 with bigger, faster, and stronger players than ever before.

Ratings are through the roof…they easily surpass the NBA and compete toe to toe with even MLB on ESPN. Execs at Fox notice this and agree to a split regional lineup with ABC. ABC takes weekends and regional for the first half of the season and Fox takes over that coverage in the second half. They pay a pretty penny to the league who has to give a good portion to old Jim Balsillie who’s Hamilton Bulldogs play to sold out crowds at the renovated Copps Coll. which is now called Bulldog Palace.

The NHL then forms new antitrust agreements with the Canadian Parliament and the U.S. Congress. They finally get transfer agreements in with every major country in the world, even Russia. By 2014-15…the new NHL is raking in the dough and all owners see a revenue sharing package that works and a salary cap that though it seems high at 75 million with a floor of 57 million….it is something that all 30 owners can easily afford. Yes, one or two teams still struggle a bit but it is nowhere near as bad as it was just five years earlier.

So out of the ashes of the old NHL comes a new league not wrought with infighting and strife but with labor harmony and a different outlook on how to market itself and help all of its 30 teams. Sure it was a rough road and one that was very narrow. However, all the unnecessary drama and threats seem like distant memories from generations gone by as opposed to just a few short years.

Now this more than likely will not happen but if Gary Bettman and company keep going down their road while the players go down their road. It leaves the doors wide open for someone with very deep pockets to come swooping in and truly bring the fans what the NHL deserves….a profitable league with a product the fans can be proud of. You never know.

Also be aware that as things happen…this version of the apocalypse will be updated and represented so the fans can see how this “scenario” played out. Already the NHLPA has taken a harder line (dismissal of Paul Kelly) and I have a feeling the NHL is a lot more vulnerable than it thinks it is at the moment. To add another update, Donald Fehr is likely to head the NHLPA at some point.  It is inevitable.  Needless to say stay tuned everyone.

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Next up the much anticipated Mad Chris Beyond The NHL version of the “Hockey Apocalypse”.

It was a cold winter morning in the early stages of the year 2013. The Mayans were always misconstrued. Reality dictated the world was not going to end on December 21st, 2012. As a matter of fact, it may have spelled to them a new beginning. If you wanted to call it a cleansing in a sense, one would be correct. The new year brought negotiations to a fever pitch yet again as Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr caused hope to swell as they had many times during the process. Small groups were set up a few more times as it seemed the NHL and NHLPA were close several times. Yet for whatever reason, by the first of January, there was still no agreement in place. Frustration was mounting yet again when the “Board Of Governors” announced a meeting would be set for January 22nd. All the pundits knew what that would mean.

The “Grim Reaper” looked like it was coming once again to take the NHL season away for good. Then out of nowhere, the mediators were brought out for the third time in the negotiations process. That seemed to be the charm. Players and owners would come close enough to finally have the actual chance to come to an agreement. After several days of very intense negotiations, finally there was that movement. The two sides came together and the agreement would be signed on January 11th. All seemed right with the world at least among NHL fans and then the most bizarre event occurred.

As the two sides were ready to sign off on a ten year CBA that saw the owners win over the players more or less again, the parties were ready to roll. All that was needed was the pen to make it official. That was when things began to get interesting. There were two pens on the stage just a few minutes ago. That was the muttering at least from what was audible. One could hear Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr both get very agitated almost at the same time when there was the unfathomable. As they went to sign the agreement, both pens would not write. In this case, the ink was on their faces and not just the proverbial egg because it turned off neither side completely read the agreement. There were still items that were disagreed upon.

It was a moment that truly was that iconic occasion. How often do you see two people that have been so vilified get a comeuppance that could be seen by everyone? However, no one would be laughing after this as predictably each side blamed the other. After all that progress, the rhetoric machine would crank up again full steam ahead. Needless to say the agreement was off, all over a prank. The coming weeks would bring not much in the way of meaningful negotiations. Neither side really wanted to talk to each other and the inevitable seemed destined. As February moved onward, it was only days before the hammer was to fall on the 2012-2013 NHL season.

The end came from the “NHL Podium” that had become a worldwide sensation. On February 18th, Gary Bettman announced “with much regret” that the season would not happen. Almost immediately, the media outlets jumped on this like white on rice. The NHL already was irrelevant but this was the notoriety they never, ever could have asked for. Yet, here it was. Two season ending lockouts in eight years was the impetus for many fans to completely shut off the game they had loved for so many years and decades. When poker and even the MLS pass you for the sports dollar, it is a very bad sign. Things would only get worse as the weeks and months would drag like a slow execution.

Again as other leagues tried in vain to pick up the slack of the NHL, it became quickly apparent the appeal some of these leagues had in the aftermath of the last season ending lockout was just losing steam. The AHL’s once proud double digit gains had become a thing of the past by March, once “March Madness” began. Overseas there was the KHL, who had seen pain of its own as players who left as it looked there was going to be an agreement could not come back when it all went south. Attendance in the Russian league dropped in March as the league became rather anti-climatic. SKA and Dynamo Moscow were the two truly dominant teams of the league as Lokomotiv was a feel good story and little more.

Ultimately the Gagarin Cup would be decided by the two teams with the highest goal differential and in the end, Ilya Kovalchuk and company would get the last laugh over Alexander Ovechkin. Just think, these two were involved in a very bizarre fantasy like trade rumor not too long ago from Rich Chere but again this was only in a fantasy world. As the 2013 NHL Draft became closer to fruition, the Calder Cup would be awarded to the Toronto Marlies in a total shocker as they upset the Springfield Falcons in the final on a bizarre play that ended the series almost similar to a goal Ben Scrivens gave up last year.

The summer would bring more discontent as though there would be a draft, there was still no agreement. That eventually would be rectified in early September when pretty much the same deal that was made in January would be agreed upon. A full season would be played in 2013-2014 but the damage could be immediately felt in the preseason. Crowds that were already sparse were almost nonexistent. The dreams of $3.3 Billion revenue streams for a season were gone. Hockey was being played but almost no one was seeing it. October would see the biggest rating drop ever in the history of NHL numbers. When the 40-50% drops extended into November, the heads from both sides worried. It would potentially get worse from there.

Soccer and poker not only passed the NHL in relevance but this was right before the 2014 Winter Olympics. Players were going to engage in the mother of all fights as the league put the ax on the “international competition” aspect. However that story is for another time…..

 

The question is what is going to be next in the plot. Will it be another series of plot twists or will the script be fairly predictable? Stay tuned as the “Hockey Apocalypse” will take another fateful step in the new year. 

 

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