Multi-sport venues can leave the basketball floor in for a while now that the players are locked out. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

NHL Players Locked Out - Now What?

The clock struck midnight Saturday night, and without any fanfare the 2012 lockout officially began.  This was not before another flurry of signings that brought the number of players resigning contracts to 20 in the last 5 days.  How bad does this look for the NHL, whose basis for imposing the lockout is that they don’t have enough money, to write (by a very rough estimate) over $180M in contracts over a 2 day period before the lockout began?

Perhaps it is a demonstration of why the NHL needs protection from itself, because management truly cannot help themselves.  It’s also further demonstration why the dumbest thing to come out of the last CBA was the September 15th end date, as opposed to a July 1st end date.  If the lockout had been imposed before the summer free agency period began, there would have been exponentially more pressure on both sides to have gotten a deal done.  There would have been some 200 or so players without contracts and teams with holes to fill.   Alas, that is hindsight and probably a mistake that will be repeated again this time, even though the pressure of empty rosters and unemployed players would have most likely resulted in a deal before any games were lost.  But I digress.

So the question remains – What now?  Well, don’t expect much public talk between the two sides over the next couple of weeks. The league will begin cancelling games mid-week and some players will head to Europe to play until the lockout ends.

The American Hockey League will be the biggest beneficiary,  as many budding superstars (Jeff Skinner, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to name a few) have been sent down to the minors for the duration of the work stoppage.

The best place to see NHL talent might be local rinks in the various cities as players hold informal shinny games to keep in shape.  There will probably be a lot of charity games popping up around the country with players raising money for local causes.

Either way, the best we can hope for is a quick resolution to the impasse so that there is meaningful hockey, and that the 2012 lockout doesn’t become known as the 2012-13 lockout.

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