NHL Lockout Hits Bogus Stage
As the old song goes, "it's the most wonderful time of the year," right? For the NHL and the NHL Players Association, it isn't even close to the most wonderful time of the year.
The soggy, foggy, dreary conditions in New York City on this day lend to the atmosphere of what just transpired at the latest round of meetings between the two feuding parties. The holiday cheer is gone. Good luck reviving it.
Last week, commissioner Gary Bettman advised that a group of players and a group of owners should come together in one spot and hash everything out without both Bettman and NHLPA boss Donald Fehr in the room. It was the duo's inability to sort anything out that has dragged the process out to a ludicrous level.
The experts tagged the last few days as perhaps the most critical juncture of the entire process. Talk of Sidney Crosby saving the NHL season surfaced. An illusion of traction took hold over the Twittersphere. Updates became rare. Nobody let a minute detail fly out of the room for the general public to know. All we knew is that they were meeting, and things looked good.
Little did we know, the longer it went, the more negative it became until it all fell apart. The NHL put forth what they called their best deal, and on Thursday night, the NHLPA was supposed to say yes or no, not return a proposal. In true-to-form NHL Lockout style, the PA released another proposal, essentially saying it was the closest they could get, and everything went to hell as soon as that move happened.
Fehr called a press conference, saying all was well. However, after Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly left a voicemail on Special Counsel Steve Fehr's phone saying nothing was well. Everything was off the table. Fehr said it will not be resolved in the immediate future, although they were "practically on top of each other."
Bettman and Daly then arranged a presser at the now famous NHL Podium where the twosome villified the other side. "The PA doesn't want to make a deal," essentially.
So where do we stand? Everything the league and the PA fought for this week is off the table. This could have turned out to be the biggest waste of time in NHL history. TSN's Pierre LeBrun called this lockout one of the most embarrassing labor disputes in history. Jesse Spector of The Sporting News yelled an obscenity starting with the letter F so loud he attracted the attention of the NYPD.
We've hit a bogus stage in this lockout that we shouldn't have come close to getting to. Bettman was certainly right about one thing during his 32 minute tirade: this should have ended by September 15. Feels like a long time ago, doesn't it? There is no excuse that we're here. None.
I understand posturing and waiting to show your hand is a rather effective strategy in resolving labor disputes, but at the current moment, both sides are fighting over a largely shrinking revenue pie.
The NHL got lucky in the last dispute that they recovered rather quickly. Under the guise of "Thank You Fans!", hockey faithful came back quickly. The big hockey markets didn't suffer. If it's any indication, it won't be much different this time around. As of October 15, only 15 Flyers fans cancelled their season tickets.
Simply speaking, hockey may simply be on a frustrating hiatus, but once it comes back, you can guarantee many will return. According to Bettman, this whole drawn-out fiasco is only to ensure the health of the league for years to come, even while several non-traditional hockey markets continue to suffer with zero revenue at this time. Great job, buddy.
Additionally, the isues that stand in the lockout are so petty it hurts. Both sides have bridged the gap of what hockey-related-revenue, or HRR, consists of. Both sides have closed the revenue percentage to 50/50. Both sides have figured out revenue sharing. They have come so far, and it doesn't even feel like it.
Both sides are stuck on contract length, honoring contract money so that no player loses a cent of what they were guaranteed, and the CBA length.
Contract length happens to be so vastly important to the NHL that Daly said that it will be a "hill they will die on." What the NHL is telling us is that this asinine issue, of which they created in the last CBA and wish to remedy, is the reason they will continue this lockout and possibly put it in jeopardy? Seven words: you have got to be kidding me.
A tweet by Yahoo! writer Nick Cotsonika put it best. "If the season is lost over these issues, good riddance. You choose to die on these hills, then die."
The NHL has not set a quote-unquote drop dead date of which the season will end. It wasn't even touched on during the Board of Governors meeting the other day. In fact, season starting dates were discussed. How quaint.
You can be guaranteed that a set of game cancellations will be on its way very soon. Games are currently cancelled up until December 11, and if it's any indication, both sides won't be meeting for a while. Anything can change, however.
Ottawa Senators play by play man Dean Brown tweeted today that the NHL needs to give Fehr a drop dead date so that they can wait until the last minute, make the best offer possible, and make it happen. The problem with that is the fact that the NHL, as a business, is losing money. What purpose does it serve to keep drawing this out and let fleeting asinine differences prevent further meetings?
Let's not forget that the PA continues to threaten the action of either decertification or a disclaimer of interest, which would be processes that would essentially end the season right away and give the NHLPA a chance to get what it wants because they would not be a negotiating party. A flood of antitrust lawsuits would attack the league, ruining everything they have worked for. Experts call this the nuclear option.
I briefly chatted with Scott Norton, a player agent, who has gone on record as saying this could be a multi-year lockout. He told his clientele to prepare for two years. Who knows? It could be over next week for all we know. That's how crazy this whole imbroglio has been. It's truly so unfortunate.
It hurts the staff workers at arenas. It hurts the broadcast crews. It hurts the players. It hurts the league. The momentum seemed so strong out of the latest lockout that it made you wonder why in the world posturing would be the most popular choice of action to delay the momentum. Many will worry about the non-traditional markets being unable to claw their way out of the red.
We can only hope cooler heads prevail, urgency is restored, and we have hockey by the new year. It won't be the Winter Classic, but it will be hockey nonetheless. The 2012 NHL Lockout has become the largest embarrassment in the sporting world.
Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr and Daniel Alfredsson may not get their swan song for their tremendous NHL careers.
The now-late David Courtney, formerly the Los Angeles Kings public address announcer, won't be able to be there and proudly present the Stanley Cup banner for the banner raising that should have happened months ago.
I truly respect the work and dedication that the media world has put into the coverage of this debacle. It must be trying to continue to write about Fehr, Bettman, the lockout, and the casualties of this war. The frustration makes more than enough sense.
Everyone wishes for it to end. Hockey is not a sport. It is a lifestyle. We miss that part of our lifestyle. We need it back. When will egos be dropped? When will we have a resolution? It's all up in the air. All we can do is hope that it's soon, for everyone's sake.