NHL lockout has benefits for AHL

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The NHL denied the NHL Players Association’s request for negotiations Tuesday, leaving the two sides at a standoff and a full season in jeopardy.

The dispute centers around who receives larger compensation – the players or the team owners.

Fans were hopeful that a deal would be done last week, when the NHL sent a proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement to the NHLPA on Oct. 16. The proposed 50/50 revenue split laid a basis on which the sides could negotiate.

Then the NHLPA sent three counter proposals to the league. All three were shot down within an hour. Gary Bettman, commissioner of the league, has stated the two sides “are not speaking the same language,” and the two sides have not met since those meetings.

Connor Showalter, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration and an avid hockey fan, is disappointed that the two sides can’t reach an agreement.

“The NHL lockout really sucks,” Showalter said. “(Both sides) are greedy. I wish they would just get it over with.”

While NHL fans are upset about the lack of hockey, the AHL is experiencing an influx of players. These players, who are NHL players with AHL contracts, are playing in the AHL instead of playing overseas. Showalter sees this as a good thing.

“It’s better than them playing overseas,” Showalter said. “The talent level of the AHL definitely isn’t as high as the NHL. But the rinks are the same, the game play is the same, and the AHL has a lot more role players.”

This gives Milwaukee residents an opportunity to see a higher level of hockey at Milwaukee Admirals games, but attendance is not increasing. In the Admirals home opener, the lone home game for the club so far, attendance was 5,572, down from the 6,226 average of last season. Fans will be able to see the team only sporadically in the first half of the season, as the majority of the home games come in the new year.

“The AHL has the opportunity to make a lot more money, because there are big name players playing for the teams,” Showalter said. “It’s a higher game than it was before, and people are going to want to see that.”

The Admirals, a feeder team for the Nashville Predators, have seen Predator stars suit up in the Admiral uniform. Players such as Gabriel Bourque, Jonathan Blum and Ryan Ellis are all taking on leadership roles on the AHL team in the midst of the lockout.

Admirals Coach Dean Evason said in an interview with AdmiralsRoundtable.com that these players are going to help the AHL competitively.

“Every team’s going to have their players come down that they didn’t expect to be there, and it’s great for the American Hockey League to have these players come down,” Evason said to the website.  “We all hope that the NHL (returns) as soon as possible, but it’s going to make our league better, and certainly those three guys are going to make our team a better hockey club.”

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