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As CBA expiration looms, Ryan Miller warns that they “can’t alienate” the fans

Aug 6, 2012, 5:20 PM EST

Ryan Miller AP

The CBA negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday and time is running out before the current CBA expires on Sept. 15.

If that happens, there might be a lockout, although NHLPA boss Donald Fehr has left the door open to the players continuing to play while a new CBA is negotiated.

The NHL has enjoyed tremendous growth since the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 campaign. Fans has embraced the post-lockout NHL, and, as Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller pointed out, a work stoppage might threaten that.

“The last thing (we) need to do is have some kind of a work stoppage, because we’ve made great strides with the positive spin hockey’s had,” Miller said, according to the Montreal Gazette. “I think the years coming out of the (2004-05) lockout, we got a lot of the fan base back, a lot of positive energy. Mix that with the Olympics here in North America, a couple of good playoffs, and we have a fan base that’s loyal and, honestly, the best sports fans out of any sport.

“We can’t alienate them. This is up to the NHL and the NHLPA to just get it right.”

Naturally, this is a complicated process that will take time. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that the mood between the union and NHL has been “good, very professional.”

Currently, the NHLPA is working on a counter-proposal to the owner’s initial offer. When the details of it are revealed, we might have a better idea of how far apart the two sides are.

  1. chiadam - Aug 6, 2012 at 6:18 PM

    That sounds all well and good, but owners don’t care about fans. Players don’t either. Both sides know the fans will eventually come back, even if we say we won’t. We will. We already have twice in the last 15 years. Owners would not terminate the CBA unless they were willing (eager) to lock out. They would not lock out unless they were willing to lock out for a long time (see: 2004).

    • echelonmt - Aug 6, 2012 at 6:41 PM

      I disagree. There is a real threat to the casual fans they’ve picked up and honestly those are the most important to the business side of the NHL or any sport. There are dedicated fans that were here both before and after the last lockout, but most of the casual fans are here because of the progress the sport has made in both terms of the improved produce on the ice and also things like the NBC deal, winter classic and other spotlights on the sport on national outlets, including improved coverage on other networks that are following NBC’s lead.

      You can probably get by with a couple of months of delays for sure, but if you miss an entire season due to another lock out and I guarantee you those casual fans forget about hockey in the meantime.

      • pone27 - Aug 6, 2012 at 6:49 PM

        I’m in agreement with echelonmt.

        The league is still not nearly as big as it was prior to its last lockout. The NHL is the least popular of the 4 major sports. It has taken YEARS for the NHL to gain the revenue, fans and popularity it has thrown to, and it’s still not how it used to be prior to the lockout.

        Hate to say it, but even the league locked out even for a week, the league would suffer a huge blow. Too many media outlets ready to kill the league (ESPN) and too many people who barely watch it enough to care if it did.

        The league will always be fragile.

  2. rushledger - Aug 6, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    Well said Miller they’ll play chicken as long as they can but it would be irresponsible to the game the fans and of course the millions and millions that would be damaged, hurt, or lost.

  3. jernster21 - Aug 6, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    I’m kind of bothered by the fact that they waited as long as they did to start negotiating. I think the D. Fehr and the NHLPA went into this with the mind set of “hey, if we don’t work it out then we can just keep playing and negotiating!’ Based on the ridiculousness the league tossed across the table they clearly aren’t screwing around in asking for what they want (even if it doesn’t happen), but you have to wonder how bad and to what length they’ll go to get what that want, and that doesn’t bode to well considering there’s a little more than a month to go before the CBA expires and teams should be getting on the ice for camps and preseason activities.

  4. mpg44 - Aug 6, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    In terms of tv contracts alone , I think the owners and the NHL have to be real careful . I they do go to a lock out and it is not resolved quickly , they know that they may never get good tv contracts . This has been a huge basis to the new ” casual ” fans. Even after all I’ve heard , so far , the players have been running rampant with these huge , out of control contracts. I agree that something needs to be done before this becomes like MLB .

  5. dkphilly1122 - Aug 6, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    Well said Ryan. Hockey is back where it was before the last lock out, and they wanna lose it all again…..the owners and players need to come to a middle ground, mostly the billionaire owners though. Blood suckers going for more blood. Keep your true passionate fans around.

  6. buffalomafia - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    What about realignment, the Coyotes,& having more than NBC having hockey games televised?

  7. blomfeld - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION PLEASE …

    This may be the first time ever, that I’ve come to a thread where I’m in “complete” agreement” with literally every commenter who’s posted ! The bottom line is that Ryan Miller is an agent of truth. The NHL is currently “riding a wave” of popularity which quite frankly, it has no business riding at all. Some of that is due to improvements with the game itself, though most of it is due to incompetence with the “big” draws. Nonetheless, the fact is that aside from “true” fans like all of us here at PHT, the vast majority of sports fans couldn’t give a hoot if there was a season next year or not ! When you look at statistical TV ratings and see audiences for the “Hunting Channel” and “Arena Football” literally dwarfing the NHL’s viewership, then you just know that one ought to tread carefully. Yes, we all no doubt “mean well” here at PHT. But the fact is, that in terms of the big picture, we constitute nothing more than a “blimp” on the “big” radar screen … and it would be foolish for these people like Fehr and Bettman to forget that !

  8. noahbhs11 - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    Very true

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