Back in September, Brent Peterson’s fundraising party and golf event was a rousing success. It raised thousands of dollars for the Peterson for Parkinson’s charity and the Predators Foundation. But beyond that, for the fans, players, coaches, staff, and media at the event, it had become an annual “back to school day” for the hockey fraternity. It’s a tight knit group that spends hours and hours together from the fall through the spring. Although the NHL Lockout had just begun, the tone of the event was only slightly different. No one imagined what was about to happen.
So here we are after over 100 days of maddening frustration (Confession: at the height of this I admit to having twisted visions of partnering with The Warriors-- http://warriorsmovie.co.uk/ , going “Medieval”, and threatening to turn both Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman into popsicles like they did with the Baseball Furies. But I thought better of it).
But the work stoppage is finally over, and those who come to love the game in Nashville are too fatigued to celebrate. Anger turns to numbness, and one becomes too wounded to muster up much emotion, other than to take solace in the fact that Bettman and Fehr avoided the devastation of cancelling the entire season- with the assist from federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh (Though the reality is both sides had this date in the back of their minds all along http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/46718/nhl-apocalypse-watch-salvation) . It may take a while for Preds fans to regain the special level of enthusiasm that IS and makes “Smashville”.
But a 48 game season is WAY better than no season, and for the Predators, they are used to fighting for fans. Unlike the Titans, it is in their DNA to find creative ways to lure fans into their building. They have worked extremely hard to achieve the levels of attendance they have. They know there will be a price to pay for this work stoppage, but they are used to pushing that heavy stone up the hill.
The tradeoff is a system that hopefully makes that hill a little less tough to climb long term. At the center of this struggle was to attempt to create an environment in which all 30 teams can:
1) Make ends meet financially
2) Have a legitimate chance to win a Stanley Cup
Elements of the new CBA such as increased revenue sharing, a 50-50 split in overall revenues, and the elimination of huge frontloaded contracts (Shea Weber) will help the smaller markets like ours achieve these goals with perhaps a little more margin for error. So before you prepare to unmercifully boo Bettman the next time he comes to town, keep in mind that he has taken a lot of heat from the “big markets” for sticking up for places like Nashville, Columbus, Florida, and Carolina over the past few years. He’s not perfect, but without his stubbornness and patience to help struggling franchises, the Predators would have been a memory five and a half years ago.
Was it worth it? Only time will tell. So let the process begin. Fans have every right to be angry and vent - especially at the ridiculous failure to find any spirit of compromise until the very end. Some will choose to stay away, which is absolutely their right. It will be up to the Predators to put out an affordable product that people want to see. And to their credit, their product has been compelling.
Now, we can at least focus on the ice. Instead of HRR, pension funds, and variance, we can talk about the team. Who is going to play with Shea Weber? Are Craig Smith and Colin Wilson Top 6 forwards the Preds can count on? What moves does David Poile have up his sleeve? For those who “Got Bit” a long time ago, the juices will start to flow eventually. Game on.