At this point, it looks like fans are going to have to choose between players and sweaters. The blame cannot be placed 100% on the players or the owners for this one. Both sides are to blame at least partially, and to try to blame the one over the other would be shortsighted and pointless. In the beginning, both sides asked for too much, and as the negotiations got more and more heated, both sides did some things that they shouldn't have. Where we are now is that the PA will not budge, and the owners are holding firm because they know that it's good for their financial well-being (and subsequently the league's well-being). A $45m cap would probably be a good thing, but at this point I am excited to see the breakdown in the talks, because this allows for a new era in professional hockey. The Union is broken. If the NHL holds firm, the Union is dead. Period. The NHL holds all the cards now, and to give in and sign any sort of deal that does not have ties to revenue or a cap over $40m would be stupid on their part. The PA holds no bargaining power at this point. The NHL has won. Basically, a lot of the players currently in the Union would love to be able to play under a $40m cap. You have to remember that the majority of NHL players did not make $8m a year, so the cap is not an issue for them. They would be happy to make $800k a year, much less the $1.6m average that we would see under a $40m cap. The NHL at this point has a wonderful opportunity. They have nine months to restructure the league without worrying what the PA will do. The can contract teams if they want to, change rules, do whatever and the PA has nothing to say about it. Don't underestimate the importance of this and what it can do to restore hockey to where it once was and where it should be. There is a huge silver lining to this mess, and the end result could be very good for us as fans. First, the NHL needs to contract. Separate the wheat from the chaff. Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Anaheim, Florida and Carolina need to go for sure. The NHL needs to be careful about this, as they don't want to go too far and end up leaving too many quality arenas open for the WHA (more on that in a bit). But these markets cannot sustain an NHL team on their own (Pittsburgh could, but that's a different situation...the 'Guins need to be put out of their misery). Further, the Lightning should "bolt" to Detroit and play in the Palace, which is probably the best arena for hockey in the US. Davidson and Illitch would have to work out a deal, but I don't imagine that this would be THAT big an issue. I would also look at combining the Flames and Oilers if it works out economically. I would consider putting another team in Montreal and one in Hamilton if a quality ownership group could be found. Basically, the NHL needs to abandon, for now, the sun belt markets that aren't working out. Stop trying to sell the South on something they don't really want. Next, I would talk to the AHL and get them to either come along for the ride or sever ties with them. It's ridiculous for teams like Denver to have their minor league affiliate in Hershey, PA. Philly has it right, with the Phantoms across the street. To build the league as well as this needs to be built, the NHL needs to promote its young players better, and to gain momentum in this area, minor league affiliates need to be closer to their NHL teams. To accomplish this, I would have the chief minor league affiliate within an hour or two of the NHL team, with the ECHL-level team a few hours from the minor league team. For example, the Yotes' chief minor league team should be in Tucson or Flagstaff, with their ECHL-level team in Albuquerque (wishful thinking?), Las Cruces or El Paso. Don't scoff at this. In Albuquerque, we have the Scorpions, but nobody is a Coyotes fan really. We do have a lot of Dodger fans though, and that is no doubt because the 'Topes are the Dodgers' AAA team. If the Scorps were affiliated with the 'Yotes, Albuquerque could become a viable secondary market for the 'Yotes. The idea behind this would be to build regional interest in the teams that isn't there right now. The Jackets should be popular in Dayton, Akron and Cinci. The 'Guins (if they are going to continue) should be popular in Wheeling, Youngstown and Morgantown. The Blackhawks should be popular in Milwaukee. You get the point. This is how teams can make a ton of money. But I digress... The next change that should be made is style of play. The trap is very functional, but it's an ugly thing to watch. The NHL needs to go back to firewagon hockey, as was seen with the Oilers. This could be done by making goalie pads smaller and enforcing the rules that are in place. Get everyone on board from the start and this could happen. Most importantly, the NHL can and should negotiate with players individually. The NHLPA is and always has been corrupt. The NHL owners lie about their revenues, but the PA does not serve the best interests of their players as a whole. The Union needs to go, for everyone's sake. The NHL needs to institute a new pay structure tied to revenue, and the books need to be open. Everyone gets a fair deal if salaries are tied to revenue. Players know that if they play harder and build their image, the team benefits and they make more money. Owners know that player salaries will never cut into their profits more than a set percentage. So what about the players? Right now, their options are limited. They can play in Russia, the AHL, or try to help bring the WHA back. The NHL holds all the cards here though, because the NHL controls all the best arenas in North America. The WHA will never compete with the NHL for the same reason that the IHL couldn't when they tried. In essence, the players' hands are tied, and that is a GOOD THING for us as fans. If the players had their way, their salaries would escalate uncontrolled and ticket prices would be even more outrageous. This whole mess will force the NHL to focus on the fans. They will have to drop ticket prices to get us to come back. They will have to offer more to make up for this. If the NHL is wise, they can turn this into something that cements their niche. Because the way things were going, the NHL was about to die. Look at this as an opportunity to retool. If you are a hockey fan, a true fan, you are rooting for these changes to take place. A deal now would be bad for everyone involved.