NHL lockout will benefit other leagues

Sep 17, 2012 | Sports

By Keaton Robbins

Former NHL #1 Overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will suit up in the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons. COURTESY- TRICIA HALL FLICKR

The NHL’s loss is the American Hockey League’s and Ontario Hockey League’s gain.

The NHL board of governors and its players couldn’t come to an agreement before the collective bargaining agreement deadline at midnight this past Saturday, resulting in another lockout.

Although the lockout is bad news for the top professional league, there are some positives for others.

Many NHL teams sent down their best young players to the AHL and OHL hours before the lockout.

Derek Snider, who works for theScore sports network, told Humber News the influx of NHL players to their AHL affiliates will bring up the level of play in the second division.

“For fans of the game in those markets, it’s a good opportunity to see players of NHL caliber,” Snider said.

But Snider said teams in big league markets like Toronto won’t support the AHL, despite the increase in young talent.

“I’m sure the attendance will probably rise, but significant? I wouldn’t say so,” Snider said. “ I’m not so sure we’ll see that in a huge market like Toronto, where “big league” is the only league.”

During the 2004-05 lockout, NHL stars like Jason Spezza, Dustin Brown, Ryan Kesler, and Eric Staal all were sent down to the AHL to develop their game further.

Snider said non-hockey cities like Oklahoma City will experience a larger impact due to young stars like Ryan Nugent- Hopkins and Jordan Eberle joining.

“It is a good opportunity, and it’s one that teams in the OHL and AHL need to take advantage of,” Snider said.

The Ontario Hockey League will also benefit from the NHL work stoppage, as the leagues best players will stay an extra year in junior hockey before making the jump.

Scott Rogers, Vice President of the Missisauga Steelheads (OHL), said staying an extra year in junior has its bonuses.

“We appreciate having our best players here for as long as possible, but ultimately it’s up to the big clubs (NHL) to control who comes up and who stays here,” Rogers said.

Although OHL clubs will be retaining some of their best, Rogers said the OHL works in tandem, along with the other Canadian Hockey League associations to help grow the game.

“I think a lot of people will suggest that attendance and attention for the league will go up, but I can’t say this is the best thing for junior hockey,” Rogers said.

Since the 2004-05 lockout, the NHL has put the limelight on its teenage phenoms.

Players like Sidney Crosby, Taylor Hall and Steven Stamkos have set the bar extremely high for other young NHL draft picks.

The pressure for teenagers to make an instant impact against grown men can be unrealistic sometimes, but Rogers said it comes down to each individual players mentality.

“ A lot of players feel that need to really make an impact, it’s tough to group them all together, “ Rogers said.

As much as the OHL will enjoy some added attention, Rogers said in the long run, the OHL and AHL need the NHL.

“We all play an integral part in building the enthusiasm of the sport of hockey,” Rogers said.

Here’s Derek Snider’s full audio interview