Finally, the NHL's long wait is over

Bill Clement, Barry Melrose and Darren Pang react to the return of the NHL and discuss its future.

Originally Published: July 13, 2005
By ESPN.com

ESPN analysts Bill Clement, Barry Melrose and Darren Pang weigh in with their thoughts on the new CBA, the future of Bob Goodenow and how the player's union and owner's fared with this new deal.

Barry Melrose

Bill Clement
Melrose
The long wait is finally over, as the NHL owners and players have finally come to the conclusion that playing is better than sitting. Like most hockey fans, I'm very excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel and know there will actually be a "next" season.

I also realize that this CBA, combined with the lost season, means that this will be a different landscape for the NHL. The league is in a terrible position with its fans after abandoning them for a season, and has to do everything in its power to bring the fans back to the arenas and to television sets in America and Canada.

There is obvious distrust and anger among fans. That is both genuine and deserved, because this is a lockout that could've been avoided. Now it's time to heal and for the league and players to join together to let the fans know that it's their sport again. The best way to do that is to go away from some of the corporate angles of the sport and start lowering ticket prices to make hockey games a family destination. The NHL is one of the best fan sports in the world and it's time for the league to prove it.

Insiders can read more insight from Barry Melrose on the complete new CBA and the future of the NHL. Insider

Bill Clement

Bill Clement
Clement
I feel a sense of relief. The salary cap, or cost certainty, for the teams is important. A lot of the franchises that were teetering on the brink of financial disaster are in a better position now and going forward for the next six years. I'm very optimistic that the sport will benefit from this stability.

That solid base will be important as professional hockey tries to rebuild its fan base and overall image. Along with the salary cap, the league is in a position to improve itself with the proposed rule changes and overall revamping of the game. I expect the NHL to dig in and take strides to reconnect with its past and regain the ground lost in the last year.

It's hard to classify as winners the fans that lost their sport for a season, But fans of the NHL are in what could be a fun position for the next couple years. First, the ownership is more than likely going to cut the price of tickets to entice fans to return to the sport. Second, the players are going to be extremely fan friendly, signing autographs and making more personal appearances.

The fans didn't win in this deal, other than getting their league back, but they deserve something -- without the fans there is no sport. If the NHL is smart, it has to start marketing the sport with an emphasis on the fan. They have to throw the fans a bone, if not a whole T-bone steak, because these fans sat back in anguish and have been forced to watch something that they love disappear for a year.

I hope the league is smart enough to let the fans know that they are respected, loved and wanted and that the NHL will do anything to get them back.

Darren Pang

Darren Pang
Pang
I'm thankful the players and owners have finally come to a resolution. I admire the work both sides put in to get this deal done, because they've worked non-stop to bring the fans a season and to sort out their issues. Both sides made sure every single 'I' was dotted and every 'T' was crossed and then put together a deal.

That said, I feel bad for the players because I'm sure they could've gotten a better deal and kept the season from being locked out. At the beginning of this ordeal, the players' union thought it would see better numbers then those for which it settled. But in the end, the union identified the need to get back on the ice. The players knew this was the best deal they were going to get and that it was time to hang it up and salvage next season.

One of the main reasons they weren't going to get a better deal was because the owners showed impressive solidarity. There were some owners who wanted to end this lockout earlier, but they understood they needed to save the smaller franchises and bring financial security to the league.

This deal has achieved that financial security for the owners, who have walked away from the negotiating table with a major victory. They've controlled spending, ensured financial futures for the smaller franchises and scored a major victory with mutual arbitration.

The latter point in significant because teams can now bring a player into arbitration after a bad individual season, as opposed to the player only going to arbitration after good season. It's another way for the owners to control costs and ensure themselves of getting a premium product on the ice without paying the premium of years past.

Since this was such an overwhelming victory for the owners, it's obvious that Bob Goodenow doesn't have a bright future with the player's association. I don't believe he'll be back next year as the representative, and in the end he will suffer as big a loss as the players.

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