Don’t ignore one element that will be a factor when push-comes-to-shove down the road in the CBA talks: Television dollars and commitments.
In April 2011, NBC did, after all, agree to pay $2 billion over 10 years -- or $200 million annually -- to the NHL for the broadcast rights.
NBC’s national network broadcasts are reportedly scheduled to begin on Thanksgiving Friday, (Last year’s Boston-Detroit game on Nov. 25 was called the 2011 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown), continue with the Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 1, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Weekly telecasts debut in mid-January. HBO also needs time to film for its "road" to the Classic.
NBCSN (formerly Versus) has the rights to 90 regular-season games. Last season, the cable network televised 24 games through November.
It’s doubtful NBC, which is busy covering the Olympics in London at the moment, wants any potential lockout to stretch through November, therefore threatening their schedule.
Oh, and how about the ticket sales at the Big House, which can hold more than 100,000 fans who are paying what, an average of $175 apiece?
And let’s not forget TSN, which has a six-year deal running through 2013-14, and the CBC, which combined, fork over more than $135 million a year to televise games in Canada. Or the regional cable networks (MSG, for example, which televises the Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Sabres) who air games locally.
A severely-shortened season really hurts up north, too, in all those areas, because you don’t want to get the nets, or the sponsors, too annoyed.
Should the hard-line spit hit the fan and the October schedule is lost, both sides have to seriously target a Thanksgiving Friday start.
Figure two weeks of training camp and a few exhibition games, so a deal would have to be in place by mid-November, about a month after the scheduled season debut.