The Reality of it all

In 1992 the National Football League implemented it's free agency system with the team Salary Cap in place. There were several periods that followed the implementation of the FA system: First was anarchy, the second was upheaval and turmoil as teams didn't just scramble to improve their rosters but improve their bottom line in whole - jumping from city to city. The third period was a last gasp for the status quo as franchises that were pre-cap dynasties (SF 49'ers, Dallas Cowboys) took home championships until they fell aside with poor cap decisions.

The fourth period of the system was and is the parity of the league - where everyone is in contention at the start of the season and anything can happen. It's also a period where teams have learned to beat the cap because players are just cogs on a roster. Mix and match while being fiscally sane and you will put yourself into contention while remembering that the Team comes first and the payday comes only if it can be afforded and earned.

It's took almost 10 years to find equilibrium. Some teams still play by the old rules and can get a winner for a short time before everything goes to hell. Others are catching on to the facts of the new league -- that you need to be smart and tactful in all aspects of building your team in order to contend for more than a moment.

The NHL has only just started life under the cap. It's also only just started life with a much broader free agency. What upheaval comes now is just the begining -- it'll get worse, leaguewide, before it gets better -- as teams try to find balance and find out financially what works and what doesn't.

Will there be relocations? Will there be more anarchy? I think so. Do I regret the system? Absolutely not. Why? Because the status quo of the old system is death. The open-ended system that was yearned for by the NHLPA, or the system that looks like what MLB has in place, has proven it's something that lags economics and turns off fans in some markets more than turning them on. One can say that MLB has experienced incredible growth since the Strike of 1994 -- I can point out that MLB also turned a blind eye for ten+ years with regards to steroid abuse by players, and some of those players helped bring the fans back to the game by awing fans with feats of strength.

I might have complaints with regards to the immediate turmoil that is going on -- as many fans of the game are having right now -- but I've seen what can happen after the maelstrom subsides. My biggest complaint is simply staying the course ten years ago to ride the wave of popularity the sport had experience pre-strike. Staying the course helped lead the league down from it's up-and-coming perch as financial insanity from the few helped drive up costs across the board. Blame Gary if you like, or blame the fact that certain groups within this sport fear change. Be it off ice through business or on ice through equipment and rules, change is bad, dontcha' know? It leads to uncertainty and probably doom because... because change is bad!

This is only month one of the new CBA... There will be more bitching about financial stupidity by owners and players in the near future. There will be more bitching about America versus Canada in the near future as teams relocate and bad blood ensues. Yet even through this time of turmoil, the Cup and the quest for it's glory will still be the ultimate factor in the day to day operations of franchises in the National Hockey League. That'll never change - and that's the status-quo that matters.