The Show Must Go On for the New York Rangers

Players, owners and all the supporting cast of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement have descended upon New York City to save the 2012-13 season. Welcome to town, boys. News hit Tuesday morning on the next step in repairing the damage that has been done. What isn’t clear is who is to blame for this horrible mess that has fans upset, angered and ready to walk away if the NHL lockout becomes official.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, “The owners and players are both to blame for their failure to reach a new collective bargaining agreement before the Saturday deadline for a work stoppage.”

Revenue has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion annually under the current deal and ticket prices continue to soar. Players are being asked to cut their share of hockey related revenue from 57 to 43 percent. Owners say they will modify this offer to 46 percent over a six-year span. Players are concerned management are not examining the numbers fairly. In an open letter to Gary Bettman, one Rangers fan posted his concerns on a blog that ticket prices have jumped 106% since 2006.

Over 250 players will attend the NHLPA meetings Wednesday and Thursday to formulate some resolution to the current state of CBA negotiations. The board of governors will meet Thursday and could authorize Commissioner Gary Bettman to proceed with a lockout on Saturday. This will be the second lockout since 2004.

The lockout isn’t about revenue to loyal fans. Fans buy tickets, merchandise and cable packages to support their favorite teams. This is about the wasted talent that will find jobs in the KHL or in Europe. And what about the fantasy hockey leagues?  NHL camaraderie, trash talk and trades between fantasy team owners will give way to the doldrums.  These loyal fantasy fans have spent months to years building winning teams and even they know the value of the players.

The New York Rangers had an amazing 2011-12 season and continue to build on that base. What should be an exciting time in New York is the arrival of Rick Nash, Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist’s mastery behind the net and the seconds of Coach John Tortorella’s press conferences, not the doom and gloom of the CBA negotiations.

Henrik Lundqvist Rangers best moments
Henrik Lundqvist (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

Henrik Lundqvist set career highs with 39 wins, a 1.97 goals against average, and a .930% save percentage. It was the first Vezina Trophy for King Henry, only the fourth time a Rangers goalie won the award.  Marty Turco was the last goaltender to post back-to-back seasons with a sub-2.00 GAA in 2002-03 and 2003-04. No goaltender has posted back-to-back seasons with a .930 or higher save percentage since the 2004-05 lockout. Let the 2012-13 season show that Lundqvist will be the next goaltender to carry those stats.

New York’s pool of young talent is a Broadway show not to be missed. This is one of the best young casts that will excite fans and sell tickets.  Ryan McDonagh posted 32 points last year and was one of the no-trade players in the Nash deal. Carl Hagelin’s role on the top line was a breakout performance that could hit 40-45 points next season. Then there’s Chris Kreider who will play his first full season at Madison Square Garden. This seems unsportsmanlike for the owners to obliterate a young rookie’s chance of playing in the NHL.

Part of the deal hits these young players who are the future of the NHL. The owners want entry level contracts to last five years instead of three, followed by five years of restricted free agency with no arbitration rights. The understudy is being backstabbed, yet these are the players who raise the revenues.

If a deal doesn’t happen to bring the NHL season back on stage, then Rangers fans will never know the impact Rick Nash made on the team. Nash may play on the same line with Brad Richards. The two may become best buds. If fans walk away from the game, their team, they may never know or care to know.

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