Consider this a lockout primer for those of you newer fans who haven’t seen the NHL and NHLPA publicly eviscerate each other in an unadulterated CAN YOU TOP THIS display of stupidity before.
I hate writing stuff like this. I’d much rather be churning out a training camp primer. I’d much rather be getting my skates sharpened. I’d much rather be getting geeked up for opening night. I’d rather be looking at line combos, figuring out where to plug in prospects and the potential non roster invitee that sticks. Instead, I get to pen the obituary on October and November for hockey. There will be no NHL games played before Thanksgiving.
NBC will not bring the considerable clout they have to bear until the end of the year in time to save the Winter Classic. At that point, both sides will play ball, offering stuff that should’ve been unilaterally accepted like more PED testing, better player safety equipment /rink requirements, streamlined supplemental discipline, Olympic participation, AHL Junior age player agreements, European transfer agreements, and so on. Those will all be things the sides can say they ‘compromised’ on. It’s all dog and pony horsehockey.
The crux of the issue is contract length, restrictions on said contracts, reigning in UFA status on burgeoning young talent, and defining Hockey Related Revenue. The last one will be the sticking point. I’ll explain why in a few moments. Lastly, to ensure we get to do this again in a few years time, the NHL will make no concessions regarding support of retired players guaranteeing a lawsuit like the NFL Alumni are bitterly waging against the NFL right now. Awesome. I love being able to see the next mountain we have to climb from the pothole addled valley road we are currently traversing.
Before I explain the core issue, I’ll take a few moments to explain who each of these people are who got us here and why they suck.
Donald Fehr – I hate this man. Why? Because his inability to get the big picture condemns him to the role of fool every time. Every single person with any knowledge of baseball cringed when the NHLPA took him on.
His name is synonymous with lost postseasons and in some cases, lost teams. The citizens of Montreal know Fehr as the man whose player strike effectively marked the beginning of the end for the Expos. What NHL team could have a parallel drawn to the 94 Expos? Finally looking at a potential return to competitiveness, but seeing it washed out due to labor strife, only to lose an irreplaceable year of their burgeoning core talent and another of those precious few years on their arena agreement? Take a guess, it shouldn’t take you too Long to make your way off that Island.
Gary Bettman – Savior. Pariah. Puppet. Dictator. He’s been referred to as all of these. Sadly, he gets to add one more title to his list: First North American Commissioner to preside over 3 WORK STOPPAGES.
Congrats, Gary. Those of you who would give him a pass: Allow me to point out he’s blaming player greed whilst his owners (even small market ones like Minnesota and Buffalo!) are lobbing ridiculous contracts to every toy on the market. They claim they need parity like the NFL model while Ed Snider (OH HAI NBC) attempts to bully Nashville into the ground with a ludicrous 100 million dollar offer sheet. Bettman’s inability to get the owners to table their ruthless aggression for a few weeks in the face of negotiations has lent credence to the notion the owners cannot help themselves, there is a schism of have and have not amongst ownership, and that the NHL is essentially asking the players to save themselves from their own greed.
Today, Gary Bettman claimed the league has lost $240 Million over the last two years… that’s in the face of the press releases that have claimed record growth every year since the last work stoppage, and in the face of Bettman himself receiving a hefty raise. This duplicity has given Fehr enough arrows in his quiver for a long fight with his rank and file.
The NHL – The NHL is posting record growth, whilst seeing a third of teams straddling the red line (and not the one at center ice). This is not a sustainable business model. However, KILLING that growth with another work stoppage just pushes more teams towards the red. The league is in such dire financial straits that a team that won it’s conference is on the precipice of bankruptcy.
The NHLPA – They got their tucas handed to them last time out. They lost a year of earning potential, and they saw a cap installed. They want some give backs with basically no leverage to get them. Good luck and god speed.
The fans – Fact check: nobody at the table cares about us. Why? Because despite your social media chest beating, you will ALL come back. I know it, they know it and deep down, YOU KNOW IT.
The NHL is drawing it’s line in the sand on Hockey related revenue. Those of you who followed the contentious NBA and NFL negotiations should be nodding your head now. This is the way to double down on hammering the players. You propose the players take a slightly smaller piece of the pie, whilst switching the size of the pie you are carving up. The league does this by re-categorizing various revenue streams, be they merchandise, TV deals, corporate sponsorships or what have you, as NON HOCKEY RELATED.
I’m going to give the national HOCKEY league a shocking piece of info, free of charge: all of your revenue is HOCKEY related. In order to tow a tough line on this, the NHLPA must concede to give backs or this lockout could imperil the whole season. These givebacks include capitulating on contract length and the size of the RFA window, both bitter pills for the PA to swallow. This one could be long, and assuredly will be messy. As such, what can you, the fan do about it to get the NHL back?
Repeat after me:
I the fan, have no impact on these negotiations.
Breathe deeply. Say it again.
We do not matter to them. All the twitter hashtags and youtube videos in the world won’t dent either sides mentality. Don’t get me wrong, BOTH sides will pay you verbal lip service in hopes of vilifying the other, and both will at the end of the day, whip up a display of ‘how much the fans matter’. The PA will release a COOLEST FANS ON EARTH video. The NHL will paint THANK YOU FANS inside every blueline. Those of us who remember the last two of these… we’ve seen it before. It’s empty and borderline insulting at this point. It’s a PR game known as C.Y.A. (Cover your ass). So what can you do with your time? Where do you put your energies?
If you’re an American, get some interest in USA hockey. Learn about the players coming up for the stars and stripes. Take an interest in the CHL (I myself am beginning my fandom of the Barrie Colts in earnest). Follow the “minor” leagues like the ECHL and AHL (LETS GO SOUNDTIGERS!). Another point: are these leagues really minor if there’s no major league to follow? Anyhow, you can also, as @Twolinepass has suggested, follow NCAA hockey. Lastly, take up playing the game. You think it’s a rush when one of your guys hits the back of the net? Try doing it yourself. It’s a high the best uppers in the world can’t match. Your local rink has both open skate and adult development sessions. Check em out. Take that $400 you would spend on going to games and spend it on getting decent gear to PLAY the game.
Till then, always go backhand.