It was eight years ago but Olie Kolzig remembers what the last NHL lockout was like.
“It was awful,” he said. “It was awful.”
With the possibility of another work stoppage looming, the Washington Capitals’ associate goaltending coach reflected Tuesday on what the 2004-05 lockout was like and talked about the hopes of owners and players figuring things out in a more expedited way this time around.
Kolzig was looking forward to working with prospect Brandon Anderson in his first professional season with the Reading Royals of the ECHL but noted that “obviously a lot depends on what happens with this lockout if there is one.”
It’s on his mind, even if he doesn’t have as much at stake now as he did as a player.
“Obviously I’m on the other side of the fence now, so it’s not going to affect me quite as much. I don’t want to see, obviously, and nobody wants to see a lockout, especially with the momentum that the NHL’s gained over the last few years,” Kolzig said. “But you understand why. It’s the not-so-fun part of sports. But I suspect that both sides understand that the NHL has grown so much the last few years that they don’t want to slow any momentum down or give any kind of negative outlook toward the NHL.”
Missing an entire season was devastating to the league from a PR standpoint at the very least. Revenues have increased exponentially since, but the NHL took a major hit at first.
The players certainly suffered in missing so much time. Kolzig played a handful of games in Germany like many who fled to Europe.
“I don’t think our union was prepared for how tough a stance the owners had. I think we were waiting to call their bluff, and they didn’t blink. We didn’t really have a Plan B, and as a result we missed the whole season,” Kolzig said. “It’s money that I’ll never make back. That was the peak of my career. A lot of other players, it was the end of their career. It was just an ugly situation that I don’t think anybody wants to ever see happen again, no matter what sport it is.”
Some, like Mark Messier, retired after that lost year. But many players, including several on the NHL Players’ Association negotiating committee, were around in 2004-05. That could help.
“I think so, especially communicating with the younger guys that maybe haven’t gone through this process and letting them know because it is ultimately the players’ vote on what they agree to and what they won’t agree to,” Kolzig said. “I think it won’t be as biased an outlook as it was maybe back in 2004. I think both sides really are going to try to hammer something out.”
Kolzig naturally voiced concern about missing time, but he kept going back to the optimistic viewpoint that the owners and players should learn from history.
“They’re going to try their hardest to get it done, and if for whatever reason it doesn’t get done by Sept. 15, I would assume it would get done in a short amount of time,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to see what happened in 2004.”