With three National Hockey League draftees on the roster and several seniors heavily scouted by NHL programs, the Bulldogs have, in their own way, been affected by the recently ended NHL lockout.
After four months of dispute between NHL players and team owners over contracts and wages, the two parties finally reached an agreement earlier this month and began the condensed season last weekend. While the newly negotiated contracts have not spurred a rise in the number of collegiate hockey players signed to NHL programs, the dispute brought more exposure to college hockey, leading to an increase in collegiate scouting and a rise in overall game attendance.
“NHL teams feel very strongly that they have to be in that college market,” said Edmonton Oilers Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Craig MacTavish, who attended a game at Ingalls Rink on Dec. 28. “The guys normally watching NHL games were freed up during the lockout to go and watch the college games more exclusively.”
MacTavish added that “virtually all” newly signed players committed to their teams by last summer’s NHL training camps — before the lockout began. The new collective bargaining agreement also did not change the one million dollar salary cap for new players under 25 years old, a relatively modest figure for the professional league, MacTavish added.
Thanks to the lockout, NHL teams have been able to spend more time watching sought-after seniors, such as ECAC player of the week Antoine Laganiere ’13, captain Andrew Miller ’13 and goaltender of the week Jeff Malcolm ’13.
“There were definitely more NHL staff at games [during the lockout]. Usually it’s just scouts, but instead of maybe one guy per team they would bring three or four,” Laganiere said. “Even managers and higher-ups came to some of the games.”
More attention to high-level players, both on the Elis and on other college hockey teams around the country, has benefitted hockey fans of college programs, players and NHL teams. Without their usual NHL fix, fans have turned their attention to college hockey.
“We did have some games televised that likely may not have been broadcast if the NHL was in season at the time,” ECAC Hockey Commissioner Steven Hagwell said. Hagwell added that on nights NBC was previously committed to airing NHL games, it instead occasionally devoted the coverage to college hockey.
The increase in televised college hockey games has paralleled an increase in rink attendance for several college teams, No. 2 Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said.
“We have had an increase in attendance this season,” he said. “We are close to sell-outs or sold-out every game.”
However, an absence of NHL coverage has not changed Yale’s perenially-high game attendance, according to Yale’s associate athletics director, Steve Conn.
Though the lockout has come to a close, the Bulldogs remain focused on the games ahead of them.
“I’m excited about every single game that we get to play,” Allain said. “I don’t expect less than 100 percent every single night and I know you can’t give more than that.”
Following last weekend’s shutout against Harvard and 4–2 victory over Dartmouth, the Bulldogs moved up from No. 12 to No. 8 in the NCAA coaches’ poll.