The lockout-shortened National Hockey League season gets underway today, and the team owners and players are saying they are eager to get back to business on the ice. But in the NHL, business as usual has come to mean ceasing operations during labor disputes, locking out players, and depriving fans of enjoyment. Three lockouts on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s 20-year watch is not a record of which to be proud.
This lockout was driven primarily by owners who calculated they could reduce the players’ slice of the pie and still win back the fan base in hockey-addicted markets like Boston over the course of a 48-game season. And with the football season coming to a close, even sports fans in places like Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, would turn to the ice for some hard-hitting action.
Small businesses around the TD Garden and their counterparts in 29 other cities suffered greatly during the lockout. Hockey fans lost half a season. Of course, Bostonians are still excited about the return of the Bruins. But it is excitement tempered by 100-plus days of NHL arrogance.