2012 NHL CBA: If the season doesn't start on time....

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Jason Bay #44 , wearing a Hartford Whalers NHL jersey, and Mike Nickeas #4 of the New York Mets , wearing a Los Angeles Kings NHL jersey, board the team bus after their game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on May 17, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Manager Terry Collins suggested a hockey theme as the team heads for Toronto for the weekend series against the Blue Jays. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Many Lightning fans may not remember the lockout shortened season of 1994-1995. I was living in "upstate" New York (anything north of Manhattan, according to some, is considered "upstate"), so I watched AHL hockey during that time. There were a number of charity games being put on by NHL players in that area as well.

The viewing options to get your hockey fix in the Tampa area during a lockout will probably be internet-related. The Lightning's AHL affiliate will still be playing - now in Syracuse rather than Norfolk - with most of the team still intact from last season. The AHL streams games live, however, their service is very expensive. After that, the options dwindle significantly, unless you have a satellite to catch European games.

But, there will be live hockey available, too. Locally, the Orlando Solar Bears and the Florida Everblades (in Estero, FL) are within driving distance from Tampa. Remember, the Everblades are the reigning ECHL champions - and are also the Lightning ECHL affiliate. Then there's the local junior team, the Tampa Bay Juniors, who play in Ellenton. And we can't forget all of that high school hockey, too.

As far as the NHL goes, if there's a shortened season, here's what you should probably know about how they dealt with the one almost 20 years ago.

First off, the NHL lockout ended on 13 January 1995. They then started the season on 20 January. So, the turnaround from lockout to season can be as short as a week. The NHL likely had a variety of schedules created for whenever the negotiations ended, along with a cancelation date, just as a backup plan.

The season for each team was 48 games long during that season. To accommodate a shorter schedule, they axed all interconference play, so that scheduling days off from all of that travel wouldn't be an issue. The only time an Eastern Conference team played a Western Conference team was in the Stanley Cup Final that year.

The playoffs were the same, however - no changes were made there.

It's been expected by many of the hockey media that the NHL season would start late. Speculation has been that it will start either in December or January, in fact. So if that's the case, then I would expect the NHL would start up in probably about a week after an agreement is reached. And probably doing what they did in 1994-1995 - not having any interconference games.

If the season doesn't start on time, then question will be, are the NHL owners ready to sacrifice the Winter Classic in order to get their way?

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