Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Quickie thoughts on the collapse of the NHL for this year

I've said it before. Now I'll say it again. Idiots. Both sides. Idiots.

How a professional sports league can collectively decide to commit suicide in this day and age is beyond my ability to fathom. It's no secret that I lean heavily on the side of ownership on this matter - despite my opinions in favor of organized labor throughout the world, I have zero sympathy for "unions" of millionares who not only do not have the best interests of their own membership in mind, but who don't even have what's best for the sport (not to mention the fans) in mind. I'm sorry...none of these guys are struggling to feed their family. They get to play a game and get well paid to do it. And sorry...you're not much of a union if a small cartel of the super-rich is conspiring to keep fringe players from making a living doing what they do best. The NHLPA is a union by and for the elite super-rich players...not the general membership. I'd bet anything that, if submitted to a vote, the NHL's last offer would probably be accepted. This is why, when the inevitable comes around and the owners go the "impasse" route (wherein the lockout becomes a strike, asusming the courts hold the impasse up), and open up camps with replacement players, I believe you'll see the rank and file in the NHLPA cross the picket lines and go to work...and the union will collapse and decertify.

That said...ownership deserves it's share of blame, too. How they can't compromise and increase the cap to $45 million/team is beyond me (though from what Gretzky says...the NHLPA didn't produce a new counteroffer last Saturday, which was contrary to what they'd said). Moreover, if Bettman and company truly had the best interests of the sport at hand, they would have started negotiating this thing long before they actually did (though the union should share blame here as well).

My solution? Fire Bettman. Fire Goodenow. Start talks fresh with a new commish and a new head of the players union....people with the best interests of the sport at heart.

My message to the league? Folks...you'd better get it done in the offseason. For the players...you can't risk losing a court battle and watching the union crumble with replacement players and the rank and file crossing the picket lines. The core of hockey fans will probably return no matter what, and some might return just to spite the players union, which is largely seen as the primary "at fault" party in these negotiations. No matter what...any deal you get next season is going to actually be -worse- than the deal you've passed up, due to loss of league net value over the strike. To the owners: Stop trying to "break" the union and negotiate a deal that will save your league and the sport as we know it. Be willing to listen to new ideas. Consider all the folks who are losing out in all this mess...concession workers, team staff, refs, fans, media, etc.

Get it done. Get it signed. Then let's all move on. Can we just move on??

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