AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File
Remember when Max Kellerman said, “Hockey isn’t one of the four major sports”? That’s a hot take that should have a bucket of water thrown on it immediately. But just to humor the ESPN analyst, if the NHL isn’t one of the “four major sports” then those leagues should take example from the black sheep of the group.
Later on today, it’s expected, the NHL and NHLPA are prepared to announce the agreement to the CBA extension, as well as, the Return to Play protocol which will have 24-teams competing for the Stanley Cup for the summer into the fall. That is something that should be applauded and appreciated from the disasters that the other pro leagues are going through.
While MLB has been in the news daily with a commissioner who seems clueless as to what is happening in his own league, owners who claim they will suffer “biblical losses” if they return to play with no fans and players who are spewing opinions left and right on their Twitter and Twitch accounts. NBA has put together a solid plan but it presents loopholes and players are opting out left and right due to concern for their health. And the NFL claims that fans will be in the stands and they will play a full season, all while they cancel preseason games after preseason games.
If these “major sports” are doing it so right, then why haven’t they been able to keep their negotiations out of the spotlight, behind closed doors, all while understanding that these conversations are give-and-take moments?
NHL players have been outspoken about their concern over the health risks, the NHL presented a black and white RTP outline of life in the bubble that provides the players, coaches, and employees comfort in their play. Players were upset with the way the escrow has been set-up since the lock-out, the owners took a hit and spread out the escrow for the next four seasons. The owners and players were concerned over the spiking Covid numbers, they switched to Canada for their hub cities. There’s plenty more that I can get into but you get the picture.
Unfortunately for fans of all the other leagues, they aren’t as important to leagues like fans are to the NHL. Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have been down that road before. Ugly conversations, cutting off communication all together, jeopardizing the health of the league multiple times. Not this time. They saw the growth of the league with two expansion teams in ten years. The upcoming TV deal that multiple outlets are extremely interested in. The only way to continue that growth is to keep this train moving fast. They do that by agreeing to extend the CBA by four years and create a healthy partnership that other leagues could only dream of.
Nobody can be happy all the time but the importance of continuity, consistency and compromise are elements that can create an effect the NHL has on the common sports fan. Becoming one of the few leagues to return to play with the most anticipated return that includes a 24-team playoff format. Add in the Olympics in 2022 to spark other countries’ interests and you’ll continue to see a league grow while others struggle to even approach the table extending the CBA.
Hey Max, the NHL may not be a “four major sport” to you but your four will be taking advice from a flourishing league for 6 more years.