The early bird gets the good seats

Hockey fans wanting to guarantee themselves spectator status for the coming season should get them while the getting's good

Hockey fans wanting to guarantee themselves spectator status for the coming season should be heading down to wherever they get their Junior A and B season tickets while some are still on, “Early Bird,” sale.

It seems more and more likely that the NHL’s 2012-13 season will take place only in 2013, if it takes place at all.

For the Smoke Eaters, that deal lasts through Sunday. The Nitehawks have no mention of a pre-camp discount on their website.

The NHL seems to have bought into the right wing rhetoric current in the U.S. – that the wealthy (owners) deserve to have more money, regardless of how well they operate their personal businesses (teams) or their combined business (the league as a whole).

It’s not, of course the poor, as in, “The poor have too much money and the rich don’t have enough,” that the current Republican leadership espouses. The players are wealthy, too, if much less so on average than the owners.

But the attitude is much the same in the current contract negotiations, with the NHL demanding, as they did seven years ago, that the players take large income cuts so the owners can increase theirs.

You remember that the last lockout, in 2004-05, concluded with a pro-ownership deal that Gary Bettman insisted would, “fix hockey for a generation.”

Well, for the owners, who have seen NHL revenues rise 50 per cent since that deal, generations aren’t what they used to be.

Not every team is thriving financially and in their minds it is all the fault of high player salaries, even under a hard salary cap and even though owners have been elbowing each other out of the way in the fight to proffer those salaries.

There are other crunching details in the NHL’s proposal, like doubling the career time required before a player can be a free agent and eliminating long term (five years, max) contracts that have been all the rage in the past few seasons fueled by grandstanding owners outfoxing the system to offer them (Roberto Luongo, anyone?).

The players have responded with an offer to take a lot of the proposed hit, but not a 30 per cent cut in the salary cap that would drop it below the mandated salary floor per team proceeding from the current deal.

We know the players won’t strike, on Sept. 15 or any other day, but the owners are predictably bloody-minded.

The NHL’s NBC broadcast contract doesn’t kick in until Jan. 1, so it seems unlikely the league will play regular season games before that date, kicking off, perhaps, with the outdoor games in Michigan.

A lockout is not a lock, as yet, but it seems likely in the cards.

So, for the price of a trip for two to Vancouver or Calgary to take in ONE of the NHL’s often boring games, you should get down to, or phone, your junior favourite’s office and book yourself a full season of hockey entertainment for your whole family. It just makes sense – if, of course, you are actually a hockey fan.

• Don’t forget, either, that the silent auction accompanying next Sunday’s Kidney Walk at Gyro will have some very cool sports memorabilia up for bids. Lots of things to do, including breakfast and the opportunity to sign up as an organ donor, so try to make an appearance at Trail’s prettiest place.