There aren’t that many bettors who care about the NHL. There should be more, and there probably would be if the sport was better at self promotion — or at least at not looking ridiculous too often.
As the sport spirals towards yet another work stoppage, though, bettors need to be paying attention. Those who love the sport — or love betting on it at least — have to consider what is likely to happen with this situation, and what impact that could have on betting opportunities going forward.
The more prepared you are for the possibilities the more prepared you will be to capitalize on the outcomes.
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I’m not going to go deep into the math of the situation or the intricacies of the arguments on both sides. It’s too complicated and just not that interesting. My strong feeling, though, consists of two factors — there will almost certainly be a lockout on Saturday when the CBA expires, and the league will play a full 82-game season.
I think the preseason will be impacted, but I believe a deal will get done when it matters. Why? Here are seven good reasons:
The main characters don’t hate each other
When the lockout happened, Commissioner Gary Bettman faced off against NHLPA head Bob Goodenow. The two men had a history, and they really didn’t like each other. They had bitter, personal battles throughout the situation, and that unquestionably had an effect on the stoppage.
This time around Bettman is still in charge for the owners. His counterpart, though, is Donald Fehr. He’s the former head of the MLBPA, and he has only been running the NHLPA since late 2010. He has no history in hockey, and reportedly he doesn’t even care about the sport. He’s a pro, and he’s generally calm-mannered — a contrast to Bettman.
It will be much easier for these two to find common ground this time around because the ego involvement is diminished significantly here.
Few secrets this time around
Before the two sides could come to an agreement last time they had to come to an agreement over what the actual situation was financially. Now, thanks to the salary cap and the openness that requires the situation is far more open.
That doesn’t mean that the solution is clear or obvious, but at least they have a starting point.
There is really only one issue
At the heart of it all the only thing that matters in this standoff is how revenue is distributed. The owners insist that the players are getting too much of the pie. They need to get a bigger share of the revenue.
The players, on the other hand, want to make as much as they can. It’s easier to reach an agreement when there is only one point of contention.
There are other issues, but they are small and won’t hold back an agreement that is reached.
Owners are doing reasonably well
Last time around there were teams in very serious trouble. In fact, it was the norm.
Now virtually every team is doing better, and most are doing much better. Last time the lockout made sense for owners because the losses were worth enduring to get things right in the future. This time around, though, there are many teams that would lose a lot — real profits — if the season was cancelled. There is also the real uncertainty about how the sport would bounce back from two big losses of playing time.
The players are showing solidarity now, but the closer they get to the season the more likely that is to crumble. When that happens a deal will be made — especially because most of the more powerful owners are also the ones who are doing reasonably well.
The public isn’t on either side
In any labor situation like this the public sentiment is very important. In this battle, though, neither side can be confident of public support.
The overwhelming view seems to be that this is a battle of billionaires against millionaires who are whining and proving that they are hopelessly out of touch with the real world.
People I talk to are hostile towards both sides and are generally frustrated. That’s a problem for both sides, and could push them towards a solution.
Players willing to take less
Last time around the players dialed back their salaries significantly as part of the deal. This time they are again willing to make concessions in salary to help make a deal happen.
When both sides are looking for more it is much harder to make a deal than when at least one side has accepted their share will shrink in the short term.
Same generation of players involved
The last lockout cost the league the 2004-05 season. The deal was reached in July seven years ago.
There are a lot of players in the league now that were around then. A lot of those guys are late in their careers and are looking to build the biggest nest egg they can for after their playing days. They already endured one season without a salary — something that cost many of them millions.
Now the prospect of missing out again will be very unattractive for many players, and it will weaken their resolve as things progress.
If I’m right about what will happen, then what does it mean for bettors? It seems very likely that the preseason will be compromised and training camps will be shorter than usual. That leaves to two factors to consider when the season does start:
The fewer uncertainties the better
Teams will have to get ready to play in a short time frame. That will be the case whether there is a full season or a truncated one. That means that the teams that have less to resolve will be in better position to get ready in a short time.
Chemistry will be key, and the ability to practice as a complete unit quickly will be a big asset. That means that teams that have line pairings largely set, that know which players are going to make up the bulk of their roster, and that have their goaltending situation established will have a big edge early on over teams that have questions to answer. Those teams have to answer those questions before they can truly start preparing to compete.
Easy to overcompensate
The betting public loves to panic about situations. When they panic they almost always overcompensate for them.
Don’t fall for that trap.
Ultimately, all teams are going to face the same challenges and the same time constraints. Some will handle it better than others, but all teams will be impacted. With every game that is played the impact of those challenges will be lessened, and teams will play closer to their capabilities.
In other words, the impacts of the lockout will be significant, but not as significant as the fundamentals behind every game. The more aware of that bettors are the more successful they will be in handling the uncertainty.