Demand and Supply
In the 1970's, TaB was a very popular soda created by Coca-Cola. It captured the diet drinker market and was Coke's leading product in that genre. In the late 70's and early 80's, fears of carcinogenic ingredients produced negative publicity and the popularity faded. To fill the void, Coca-Cola introduced "Diet Coke" in 1982 and life went on. While TaB had a certain appeal and interest, it was generally a commodity occupying a space that some product would naturally fill. As it was removed from shelves, it was clear that some other option would become available. It is very rare in this world that certain goods or services have no competition and cannot be replaced should a vacuum be established. The National Hockey League is no different.
As both the NHL and NHLPA dig in for what could be a lengthy work stoppage, NHL players have begun to make plans to skate elsewhere. Alex Ovechkin, one of the premier names of the league, has insisted he would play in the KHL all season. Evgeni Malkin, the reigning league MVP, is already there. Even Sidney Crosby, the modern face of the game and most recognizable name to casual fans, has stated he may play in Europe this fall. One cannot fault the NHLPA members who take up work elsewhere...this is what they do. The lesson to the National Hockey League, like TaB, is that they are not the only game in town and can be replaced.
The NHL's bargaining position up to this point has been one of complete domination. Gary Bettman and the owners have put forth demands, not proposals, which look to solve their problems with an iron fist while completely ignoring the desires from the NHLPA. The continued inclusion of a player salary rollback, especially without directly transferring 100% of those savings to fans in the form of ticket price decreases, is absurd. This site had previously proposed a method for getting the overall NHLPA revenue to 48% without a player rollback (and we know we're not smarter than the guys doing the negotiation. We're sure we didn't think of something they haven't considered). At this juncture, a proposal not using a financial structure similar to that at its core is simply not a real proposal.
So we're left with nothing, right? Well, just like TaB drinkers we'll move on to other products - be them existing or something, like Diet Coke, that will be created to fill the void. We have the AHL, KHL and European leagues. The latter two choices may be dismissed by NHL executives as being too distant and played in time zones far apart from our normal consumption windows. As proven in 2004, however, us hockey fans are a passionate bunch and may very well make the jump to follow our favorite players.
But the National Hockey League? The NHL is just a can, a shell, holding the commodity product. Maybe like TaB, given the history of work stoppages and harm to the fans, it is better to keep that product off the shelves.