For instance, let's say you have a favorite diner near your house. What do we love about diners? They're inexpensive. The food comes out fast. The coffee is always good. The chef in the kitchen has an "I hope these customers didn't see me on 'America's Most Wanted' look on his face. The gum-snapping waitress is in her 50's, but there's still something sexy about her, despite the smoking wrinkles and the missing left index finger. And you can kick back, read your newspaper, enjoy a decent omelet, home fries and some buttered toast, and flirt with a 53-year-old woman who was probably Patient X for Hepatitis B back in 1971. What's better than that?
Well, imagine if they quadrupled the price at the diner, the food took three times as long, you couldn't see the chef, all the waitresses looked like Kathy Bates, and they added so many breakfast items to the menu that you almost needed a translator to read the menu? Would you ever go there again? Of course not. And that's what the NHL never realized until it was too late. It was the breakfast diner of professional sports leagues, nothing more. Unfortunately, it took a 301-day lockout -- as well as every cable channel basically saying, "Thanks, but no thanks" -- for everyone to realize this.
Q: Was the players' union happy with how everything unfolded?
Of course not. Here's what three of the biggest stars said:
Jeremy Roenick: "I still think [it's] brutal. But we want to play again."
Brett Hull: "It's a terrible deal."
Chris Chelios: "This deal is not good for any of the players and everybody realizes that."
And I empathize with these guys. Really, I do. If ESPN.com came to me this week and said, "Look, we're losing money, we need to renegotiate your contract or we'll have to fold the Web site," would I be upset about it? Absolutely. But what can you do? So I have to sell one of my houses and a few of my sports cars, and maybe I can't stay in the Rain Man suite at the Hard Rock anymore. Them's the breaks.
Q: What's the coolest part of the deal?
That they installed a cap and completely revamped the salary structure. Eventually, this might even show up in lowered ticket prices (cross your fingers).
The nitty-gritty facts: All remaining contracts were rolled back 24 percent, with teams having an option to then buy out those contracts for two-thirds the total the cap is directly tied to the league's revenue projection, so higher-end teams can't spend more than $39 million, and lower-end teams have to spend at least $22 million you can't spend more than 20 percent of your cap on one player, meaning that no hockey player can make more than $8 million per season and with the bumped-up minimum (from $175,000 to $400,000), it's nearly impossible for a team to have two or three $8 million guys (so long, competitive advantage for the Wings and 'Lanche).
Note: Personally, I would have made the high end of the cap $2 million and the low end $1 million, with no player able to make more than $350,000 per season, and the league minimum being the aforementioned $20 an hour with players getting time and a half for overtime games. But that's just me.)