Colorado Avalanche season opener is tonight! Oh, never mind....
The Colorado Avalanche was scheduled to open the season against the St. Louis Blues tonight at the Pepsi Center. But thanks to the NHL's failed attempt to resolve its collective bargaining issues, the first two weeks of games have been cancelled amid the current lockout. If the NHL can suddenly convince players and owners to split billions of dollars equally (highly unlikely), the earliest the Avs will play is October 25.
Three members of the current Avalanche squad have already signed overseas. On October 2, center Matt Duchene inked a deal with Sweden's Frolunda FC. A day later, forward and newly named team captain (the youngest in NHL history, by the way) Gabriel Landeskog signed with his former team -- Djurgarden, also located in Sweden, his home country. Meanwhile, goaltender Semyon Varlamov came to terms with his former team Lokomotiv in his native Russia. Lokomotiv has been retooling its roster since a plane crash killed its entire team in September 2011.
The present lockout kicked off September 16, when the previous collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA (Players Association) expired. On October 1, the NHL slashed its employees' pay by 20 percent and required only four-day work weeks in order to cut costs. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says the league has already lost over $100 million in preseason revenue alone.
This is now the third lockout under NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. In 2004-05, the entire NHL season was cancelled due to a labor dispute on his watch -- the first time in North American professional sports history that a complete season was wiped out as a result of a lockout. During that time, a whopping 50 percent of NHL employees were laid off.
The largest obstacle the NHL must overcome in the existing lockout is hockey-related revenue, also known as: money. The previous agreement between the NHL and NHLPA saw players receive 57 percent of all hockey-related revenue. NHL owners want to lower this ratio down to a more even split -- somewhere near 50-50. Naturally, the players are unwilling to budge, and many have pointed to Bettman's boisterous claims that NHL revenue has risen over $1 billion since the last lockout to explain why they're standing pat. But as true as Bettman's proclamation was, it doesn't exactly tell the entire story.
The NHL's current fiscal dilemma is very similar the one being discussed in the upcoming presidential election. The top handful of NHL teams take home a majority of the league's income, while the less lucrative franchises barely make ends meet. In order for the weaker franchises to prosper, the NHL must implement some kind of revenue-sharing system, which wealthy franchise owners are not necessarily opposed to as long as hockey-related income is brought closer to a 50-50 split. Some big-market owners have even thrown around the idea of league contraction in order resolve the NHL's financial conundrum.
The Avalanche is one of the teams that just stays afloat. After being ranked as high as eighth on Forbes' NHL Team Values list in 2007, the franchise has since hit a series of rough patches and dropped ten spots to eighteenth in 2012. To put things into perspective, the Avalanche make roughly between $70 and $80 million in revenue per year, while the NHL's top three or four franchises bring in double that amount. The Toronto Maple Leafs, currently the NHL's most successful franchise, made close to triple what the Avalanche produced.
In theory, the lockout could end at any moment; in reality, fans should prepare to be "Avless" until at least the holidays. For the time bein,g sports-craved Coloradans should be able to satisfy their hunger every week, when Football Jesus II (a.k.a. Peyton Manning) walks on water (make that grass) for three and a half hours on live TV.
Matt Duchene made the final cut in last year's Westword Web Awards. Learn more in "Leaked! 2011 Denver #WebAwards winners."
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