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Lockouts taking big bite out of some NHL players’ careers

Winnipeg Jets fans greet Anaheim Ducks' Teemu Selanne during warm-up prior to their NHL hockey game in Winnipeg December 17, 2011.


It's been an interesting first few days of the lockout on social media, as players have been filling Twitter with their thoughts on Gary Bettman, the owners and the fact that it doesn't look like they'll be playing hockey any time soon.

Here was one tweet from the Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler yesterday that puts things in perspective for the players a little bit:

"NHL has lost 1,698 regular-season games to labour disputes since 1992. More than Major League Baseball (938), NBA (504) and NFL (0) combined."

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That, of course, doesn't count the impending lockout this year, which if it eats a full season would mean another 1,230 games lost for an incredible total of nearly 3,000.

According to Justin Bourne at The Score, 14 NHLers will be going through their third lockout this time around, meaning they're likely about to add to the up to 118 regular season games already deducted from their career totals.

Here's who those unlucky 14 are:

Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Jason Arnott, Ray Whitney, Brian Rolston, Chris Pronger (out with injury), Sergei Gonchar, Martin Brodeur, Roman Hamrlik, Sean O'Donnell, Adrian Aucoin, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ryan Smyth, Jamie Langenbrunner

If we lose another full season, those players will have missed up to 200 games apiece in their careers to a lockout.

They aren't the only ones feeling the pain of missing a lot of games, either.

Consider players who had only just started playing in the NHL back in 2004-05, when the last full season was cancelled, and factor in time missed for injuries, and there have been some NHLers whose careers have been only five or six seasons long and they're already 30 years old.

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Matt Lombardi of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a good example. Today after an informal skate with some of his locked out teammates, he pointed out that he has already lost one full season to a lockout, another full season to a concussion and is on the verge of missing even more time to another labour stoppage.

Despite being in the league since making the Flames in 2003, he has just 508 regular season games played, well off the nearly 750 that should have been scheduled had there not been that stoppage or those injuries.

"I know, it's unbelievable," Lombardi said on Tuesday. "I can't imagine going through two of these. That's a lot of hockey missed. The average career isn't too long obviously.

"You just look at the positives and try and not worry about how much hockey you've missed or are going to miss. Just stay healthy here."

Roy MacGregor wrote about this a few weeks ago in terms of players who will have their Hall of Fame credentials impacted by lockouts, but there are other considerations, too.

Some players could miss the 400-game requirement to get an NHL pension. Others could miss major milestones like 1,000 games played or 500 goals. Or how about the Stanley Cup that was never awarded?

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And, as with the last lockout, a lot of careers could be ended by missing another full season.

An incredible 241 players never played in the NHL again after the last one, and there could be similar turnover here this time around, too.

That short career span is one thing that works against the NHLPA in these negotiations. Players like Lombardi may only have another three or four years left to play, and if they spend a full one on the sidelines without a paycheque, it's likely they never get that back, regardless of the deal signed.

If the average career for a regular NHLer is, say, 600 games, how many of those have been missed through two or three lockouts in the last 17 years?

Probably far too many.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More


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