Labor is usually helpless against capital.
Yes it has been a while. No I haven't forgotten about the game I love, but I may yet. Not that it pleases me to say that. But I have never been as disgusted with the game as I am this very minute. This very minute, where labor talks have proven useless in stopping the NHL's fourth labor disruption in 20 years.
Think about that. That's something happening every five years in a sport that tries to be one of the four major sports in North America. And yes I say North America because it's just plain ignorant not to distinguish Canada as its own entity and to shrug off the fact that they enjoy their own sports as well. But every five years something happening to stop the schedule in its tracks? Ridiculous. Keep in mind this includes an entire season lost in 2004-05. Not even baseball which also lost a season in 1994, has such a horrible record.
Right now I'm coming from the perspective of someone who is in constant fear of losing their job because of business mismanagement. That fear has become reality in so many different ways. What I'm saying is that, to a certain extent, I side with the players on this one. Especially when you have to consider the fact that the players were the unquestioned losers that resulted in the lost season of 2005. And if anything this is all coming about as a result of business mismanagement.
I do have a background in teaching Social Studies and could easily take you on the other side of the monitor or mobile device through a quick lesson in macroeconomics. For those of you who are retching right now, don't worry. I'm not about to dignify the NHL's mistakes by trying to explain them as if it's even worthy of a history lesson. You only need to know this much--the system is broken and has been broken for some time in that it's hard for all 30 member clubs to financially compete year in and year out. It's painfully obvious that the NHL just can't get their act together and has pretty much destroyed any progress it made in the last seven years.
There will always be a top tier that can afford to spend like crazy, always the frontrunners for any high-profile players that are available. We all know who they are--the Flyers, Rangers, Maple Leafs (you wouldn't believe it, but yeah) and the Red Wings. Then there are the smaller market teams that try to keep up though the league will say they can't. They don't say they shouldn't, they just say they can't. Yet they do anyway. Like Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold giving out contracts to two players totaling $196 million in one day. This is the same man who pretty much refused to spend a dime in improving his previous team the Nashville Predators. What is this guy trying to do? Prove he has the world's first case of hockey schizophrenia? This is just one example of the mess the owners have created.
By the way, if the owners insist on imposing shackles on the players such as no unrestricted free agency for eight years or whatever, I think it's only fair that the door swings both ways. As in clowns like Leipold not being able to own another NHL franchise for a certain number of years (or better yet forever) after selling off another.
Not that the players don't have their own share of the blame. While they went out and won the PR war about HRR (Hockey Related Revenue), that only meant that they clearly were not all that serious about reaching a solution that ensured the season started on time. And it should be obvious to everyone that that was their strategy all along. Who made most of the proposals? And then who dragged out the responses to those proposals? Need I say more?
Do I claim to have a solution to all this? If I could insert a laugh track here I would. Of course I don't have a solution because there is no one right answer to all this and that's the pitfall. So what as fans are we left to do? Well as it happens, we do have options, a lot of which have nothing to do with hockey. For our friends north of the border, I envy you. Why? Because a lot of you will have a lot of minor hockey options within spitting distance. That's not to say we can't get our hockey fix no matter where you are. No, it won't be the same and it won't be what we've been waiting the longest of summers for. But there's lots of ways to enjoy this sport we've come to love. More on this in the podcast.
In the meantime, your influence, your voice still counts. My silence was for personal and other reasons, not to mention the fact that I didn't feel as if I should even dignify all this crap with a response. I felt this way because I figured my purpose was to put out my observations mainly on what was happening on the ice. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Take advantage of the times we live in, get out there and let both sides know how you feel. There have been calls to do an "Occupy" protest outside the NHL store. There has also been a plea for all fans to boycott officially licensed NHL merchandise for a year. Both of these are legitimate forms of protest and will hit owners and players where they deserve--in the wallet. But if all you do is get on the social media outlets and speak your minds, that is just as valid. What isn't valid, from my point of view anyway, is this self hating nonsense. In other words, for God's sake if you're going to speak, speak intelligently and don't just scream obscenities and nonsensical garbage. It might make you feel better but it'll make you look like the idiot you claim not to be.
Yes, when (or God forbid, if) this all blows over and the NHL takes the ice again, we as fans will come back. Was Gary Bettman an ass for assuming what we will do, even if there is a lockout? You bet he is.
Sadly, he is correct. We are hockey fans and there is nothing better in the hockey world than NHL action. Some of us will take our time coming back, and there will even be a fair few that turn their backs on the league for good. But the vast majority will be back and that's good enough for the owners, even the ones that like to cry poor.
And if the unthinkable should happen and (shudder) the season should be canceled...or worse? Well as sad as that will be, that is when things will get interesting. Just because the NHL is the only game in this part of town doesn't necessarily mean it owns hockey. And it cannot rule the game if it fails to function. Read up on your pro hockey history and see for yourself how there have been different leagues that have challenged the NHL, albeit unsuccessfully. If anyone gets the notion and the wherewithal, things could get very interesting indeed. At the very least it would be a topic worth discussing.
So get out there, loyal hockey fan. Let the world know you're not taking this quietly. Let players and owners know that they can sit on their collective assets and let the league simmer in its own incompetence.
Let them think hockey will cease to exist for the time being. But be sure to let them know how you feel about it. Because hockey is a part of us, it is for all of us, it is an unquenchable fire within us. And no one can own that.