Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thirteen days...and counting...

Despite growing public condemnation, owners, Bettman adamant about regressing NHL hockey despite record profits, revenues

Thirteen days to go. Thirteen days.

On Saturday, Sept. 15th, the owners and their representative, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, will lock the players out for the third time in Bettman's 19-year tenure.

There will be no NHL hockey. Players will be left to fend for themselves, while the owners will squirrel away cash to tide their franchises over until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is agreed to. Meanwhile, Bettman still gets paid his reportedly $8,000,000 million annual salary. (By contrast, Donald Fehr, the ex-MLBPA head now running the NHLPA, gets no salary until -- and, unless -- a new CBA is agreed to. This is the way most lawyers work, on contingency.)

Meanwhile, thousands of part-time NHL team employees, and employees of businesses who depend on hockey -- bars, restuarants, hotels, even transit authorities and airlines (who charter planes for NHL team travel) -- are laid-off or have their hours sharply reduced. The fans are disillusioned yet again, for the third time in a generation. All for the unbridled greed of a few owners (who don't want to revenue share) and the mis-steps of Bettman himself (whose 'Southern Strategy' has been proven to be an unqualified failure).

Marginal players -- not the superstars, who have provisions built into their contracts so they will get paid (or, already have) regardless whether they play or not -- will suffer. Despite the NHLPA's two-year warning to squirrel away cash for a long lockout, some may have not done so. Now, it just may be too late.

No one on one side wants to listen to the other side. Talks broke off last Friday, with no new sessions scheduled. Compromise? With the owner who already has engulfed, and devoured, more than half the cable TV industry in the USA? With the owner who feeds more people in stadiums and arenas, than any other? With the owner, who is still playing with Union Pacific Railroad money? With the de facto owner of the Phoenix franchise? Hell no, they won't compromise. No one wants to compromise on the owners side. They all seem united to keep hockey from the fans, after a 2011-2012 season which was one of the best, start-to-finish, in the history of the League.

As has been pointed out many, many times...the current, expiring CBA is the one that the owners wanted IN THE FIRST PLACE. The players already gave back 24% of their salaries. Now they're being asked to give back nearly the same amount...again. Since the loopholes in the current CBA have been exploited (yes, including signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise by the Minnesota Wild), now you're trying to put the proverbial horse back in the barn, not by the carrot, but soley by the (hockey) stick?

Sorry, NHL owners, but this time, you lose the biggest court battle of all, that of the court of public opinion. And you lose it not for what the other side has done, but what your own side has not done. On one hand, your teams are going along, trying to sell tickets, merchandise, etc., like absolutely nothing is wrong. On the other hand, your personnel departments are ready to hand out lay-off notices and pink slips like a post-war parade. If you would face the reality of the situation, stop the subterfuge and negotiate in good faith, this could all be stopped, dead in its' tracks. And the hockey season could be saved for the fans, fans whom the Commissioner said were, 'the best fans in the world.'

Well, aren't we?