The Real Losers of the NHL Lockout

Gary Bettman
Gary Bettman (Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE)


I can’t say my life is the worst without hockey because my income doesn’t depend on it.

Sure, having a winter without the sport that thrives on the chill of the wind in the air and the snow covering the ground is hard. It was depressing not having a player like Ilya Bryzgalov enlighten me with his philosophical sayings on HBO’s 24/7. I’ll miss watching the top players in the NHL play against each other in the All Star Game.

But, I don’t have to wake up each morning and stress about a job interview or how I’m going to pay next month’s rent because there’s a lockout.  I don’t have to ask myself if I can afford to buy my own health insurance plan because there’s a lockout. This lockout won’t be a forgettable experience for people whose lives depend on the playing of an NHL season, those who work to make the game an experience.  The workers and small businesses won’t be able to simply shrug off the lockout and neither will the economy.

Permanent damage has already been done with the lockout wiping-out almost half of the season. With every home game cancelled, small businesses around the arenas lose money, and when small businesses struggle, more people are laid off.

Consider Fireside Restaurant in Edmonton.  Located across the street from Rexall Place, the home of the Edmonton Oilers, the restaurant usually brings in out-the-door traffic during an NHL season.  Five servers used to work on hockey game nights, but now only one server is needed a night, “It’s hurting us bad, really bad,” said Laura Heise, a server and manager at Fireside Restaurant. She said she was crossing her fingers that there is a NHL season.

Teams have also cut the hours and pay or laid off some of their administrative staff and vendors have needed to find new work.  As the lockout drags on, more teams need to cut costs—this first starts with employees.  The Minnesota Wild imposed a 20% pay-cut on all of their employees until the lockout ends.

For the employees, hockey is more than just a sport, it’s their source of income.  Hockey gives them the money to send their kids to college or pay off the mortgage on their house.  It allows them to pump more money into the economy.

And with fewer team and small business employees due to the ongoing lockout, economists have seen the Canadian economy take a hit in the form of slow growth of gross domestic product (GDP).  It is predicted that the Canadian economy will shrink by 0.1% of its GDP if the lockout lasted the entire 2012-2013 season.  0.1% may not seem like that much of a contraction, but, according to The Wall Street Journal, when the Canadian economy is supposed to grow at a rate of 2%, a 0.1% decline is “a significant penalty” for the economy.  “[The lockout] matters for the economy,” says Michael Gregory of BMO Capital Markets.

And people are losing their jobs and livelihoods because the two sides of the NHL cannot agree on how to split 3.3 billion dollars.

While the bickering continues, the struggles continue for those who cannot sit in on the talks.  The employees cannot plead their case that maybe the lockout is affecting more than just the owners and players.  They had no say in whether they would like a lockout or not.  It was all up to the owners and players who make much more than the employees at arenas small businesses.

The league doesn’t care that people have to suffer through unemployment or underemployment because the league can’t and won’t get its act together until both sides decide how to split billions of dollars.  All that matters is that the league gets as much money as possible, with little concern about how the lockout endangers the jobs of employees that earn much less.

Some say hockey is just a game.  That hockey fans just are too crazy about a sport that isn’t even that popular in the U.S and have nothing better to do but complain.  And it is just a game.  But, when the livelihoods of people that depend on the game to earn a living are at risk, the game becomes that much more important to play.  The stakes are higher in this game, the penalties harsher than a major penalty, a game misconduct, or a suspension.  Small businesses and their workers take the illegal hit in this game.  They end up battered and bruised.

Victims of greed.