The NHL lockout has gotten political.
With the cancellation of regular season games looming, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both from New Jersey, sent a jointly written letter to league commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr urging both sides to come back to the table and continue negotiations and resolve the contentious issues that are hampering talks. The two sides had met on non-economic issues over the weekend.
The two Senators have a vested interest in keeping hockey on the ice. Now that the Nets have moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn, the New Jersey Devils are the principal tenants of Prudential Center. If there’s no hockey season, the city of Newark could lose millions of dollars in revenue.
In the letter, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez make the case for a swift resolution by asking both sides to think about the economic impact a lockout on not only Newark but the U.S. cities where the 23 of the 30 NHL teams are located:
The cancellation of the preseason will negatively affect workers, businesses, and families in our state, and a failure to resolve this dispute in time for the regular season would impose an even greater hardship. Dozens of businesses and hundreds of workers in Newark depend on the hockey season for their livelihood…Newark is not unique—communities across the country have tied their economies to professional hockey. As you consider your next steps, we encourage you to keep in mind the communities, workers and families that would be hurt by a further disruption in the season.
For emphasis, the Senators point out that there could be Congressional intervention if a resolution does not come quickly:
Businesses, workers and hockey fans played no role in causing this dispute, and it is unfair for them to have to bear this burden. The Senate has jurisdiction over interstate commercial activities, including professional sports, and will keep a close eye on your negotiations with hope that you will work diligently and quickly to resolve this matter.
This kind of political intervention is not new: during the NFL lockout in 2011, both the league and NFLPA hired lobbyists to plead their cases to members of Congress, with the league even forming a political action committee called the “Gridiron PAC”. Several Congressmen did indicate that they were willing to intervene if the need arose.