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National Hockey League

Nobody asked me, but ...

By Drew Markol, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is how this column started out Tuesday morning:

Have you started to miss the NHL?

I know it's only been a week or so since the regular season was supposed to start, but it's just a shame.

By this time, we should be seeing skaters zipping around the ice and ESPN ignoring the NHL.

(To ESPN's credit, it would have shown highlights from opening night after it got through the highlights of football, baseball and the Miami Heat playing exhibition games in Turkey, but it's the other 80 or so regular-season games the network will ignore. But enough about that).

The NHL just can't seem to get out of its own way. The sport was gaining momentum in the United States and now they take it away. That's just not smart. The owners want more of the pie and the players want the pie to remain the same. Hardly a new idea, but one problem that should have been solved during the offseason.

Heck, we all saw this coming for over a year. A lockout was being talked about way back when and nothing was done about it. Now, already, two weeks of the regular season have been canned by the owners. Expect another announcement soon about the next huge block of games being kyboshed.

Then came late Tuesday afternoon:

The NHL, like a haymaker in a hockey brawl, announced a proposal that, if I were a player, I would have signed up for a minute after it was made.

The offer would give the players a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue.

Of course, the players have 57 percent now, a figure they didn't want to see drop, but many believed the ultimate goal between the two sides would be an even split.

Now, it's available.

Granted, it's not everything the players want.

How are current contracts going to be honored by a new collective bargaining agreement? Length of contracts and free agency, too.

It's true those factors are issues, but the biggie - the hockey-related revenue - is fair.

The NHL also wants to get this done quickly, enabling a full 82-game schedule to begin on Nov 2.

So, here we sit on Oct. 18, barely two weeks away from the second day of November. In other words, both sides need to hurry.

If they don't, look for a long, long lockout and maybe no NHL at all this season.

The NFL figured things out before the 2011 season and didn't miss any regular- season games. And baseball has been strike/lockout free for nearly two decades.

The NBA learned last year that if you take the game away, people will adjust and stop caring as much.

That league had a lockout until it resumed Christmas Day and then played a condensed season. The league and players saw what was happening and knew they had to get their game back in front of a nation that was looking elsewhere for their entertainment.

As for this NHL lockout, many of us figured the NHL would get back and running for the wildly successful Winter Classic on Jan. 1. It just made sense. Have your biggest regular-season attraction kick off your shortened season.

That all changed Tuesday afternoon. As did the all-important court of public opinion.

The owners, remarkably, now look like the guys in the white hats trying to save their season. The players, like any group in their situation, have said all along that a fair deal is what they seek.

Well, it looks like they got one. And, if they want to get back and play, now seems to be the chance.

I get tired of writing the following sentence because there always seems to be a labor dispute in sports somewhere: It always comes down to a battle of billionaires (the owners) versus millionaires (the players), and guess who normally wins? The folks with the most money, of course.

In this case, it looks like a tie. And, if I were a player, I'd take a tie here.

Every day we hear about more and more NHL players heading to Europe to play, leaving their families behind in search of a buck.

How many NHL owners have we heard of taking a job at McDonald's or Burger King to make ends meet?

The owners, or at least a large majority of them, can take the hit of a lost season. The players, a lot of them at least, perhaps can't.

Now they have a chance to avoid that.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia- area newspapers for over 25 years.

10/18 11:31:35 ET

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