Eric Staal had some words on the lockout, in an admittedly dramatic article by the N&O’s Chip Alexander:
For the Canes’ Eric Staal, there seemingly was symbolism in everything.
Having put in a skate at Raleigh Center Ice, he was standing near a locked door that said, “Property of the Carolina Hurricanes.” He had just paid for the ice time — money out of his pocket. He was lugging his own equipment bag.
Such is life for an NHL player during the NHL lockout. It’s October and he has no games to play. He’s a team captain with no team to captain. He didn’t spend his time at RCI skating in circles — with brother Jordan Staal, Joni Pitkanen and a few others — but he might as well have been doing it as the NHL and NHLPA continues to haggle over a CBA.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions you go through,” Staal said. “There are times when you’re frustrated, times when you’re wondering what both sides are doing.
“I guess now it’s down to where we’re going to be losing games. Everyone is missing out. You hope here in the next very short time they get down to it and get serious and get it done.”
The lockout began Sept. 16 and the NHL by last week had canceled all preseason games. Today, the NHL announced the cancellation of the regular-season schedule from Oct. 11 to Oct. 24.
“It’s starts to get real,” Staal said. “There’s real money lost for players and more money lost for owners. It’s too bad because of where the game has been going and how it’s grown.
“You’d like to think these people are smart enough to figure out how to get a deal structured properly for both sides to be OK with it. We’re not at that point yet, and it’s hopefully sooner than later.”
The hockey fan in me says, oh, it’s starting to feel real? No [redacted], Sherlock! But the part of me that knows a few things about business also knows that, yeah, the players are sticking it out for now because the NHL fired their ridiculous 57% shot over the bow and indicated that inflexibility would be the theme of negotiations, for as long as the players can hold out. The NHL has reportedly lost $100 million on the preseason alone, which is a staggering number if you consider that they’ve now cancelled half a month’s regular season games.
I’m cranky about it; who’s not? I don’t feel as bad for Eric Staal as I feel for the lower-paid players, who in turn I don’t feel as bad for as the arena workers. But, yeah, it sucks for everyone. There’s nothing we, the fans, can really do, which makes it doubly as frustrating. And that’s not even touching on the fact that Charlotte’s not an easy drive for Canes fans in the Triangle to make, and there’s just not a lot of minor hockey to be found south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Hopefully, the NHL will realize just how much they stand to lose by continuing the lockout. To continue to grow, small markets need consistent play. The Hurricanes have a dedicated fanbase, but the longer there’s no NHL hockey, the more their casual fans will drift away. That’s bad for business, bad for the NHL, and bad for a culture that I, personally, think is really cool, and would like to see spread.