With training camps slated to open in mid September it is becoming more and more a dark reality that the doors to NHL training facilites will remain locked. The two sides are at an impasse that doesn’t appear will have a resolution very soon, as meetings seem to be more like “coffee and” sessions, rather than let’s really sit down for a full day and hammer this out. The next scheduled meeting is tomorrow, and while I would certainly hope progress is made, it’s become quite obvious that the owners, and Gary Bettman are going to stand their ground.
As we all try to read between the lines of comments that are being made from both sides, I can only surmise the following: The owners won’t give in, and the players will have to…..again. Gary Bettman seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth, and as the last lockout was resolved, we all thought that this could never happen again. Well boys and girls, never be sure of anything when it comes to labor negotiations. I would guess that the owners never imagined that the revenue that they are sharing with the players, and the earnings that the NHL is producing would have risen so fast in the past seven seasons either. While a salary cap was put into place to allow teams from smaller markets with shallower pockets to compete, and create league wide parity, the cap has risen significantly more than anticipated or projected. Yet, even though long term deals are still being handed out as we face this upcoming work stoppage, Bettman has the nerve to say this:
“We believe we’re paying out more than we should be,” said commissioner Gary Bettman. “It’s as simple as that.”
Yet it’s the owners (not all) who are handing out the fat contracts to the likes of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter among others, to go along with the long term contracts to players like Scottie Hartnell and Max Pacioretty. I’m not here to say that these players don’t deserve these recent deals, it just amazes me how Gary can make that comment, while these actions going on at the same time.
* If there is a lockout, the “rich” teams, those in popular NHL cities with loyal fan bases will be able to hold on to more of the teams money and pay less out the longer the inactivity goes. Meaning that owners keep more in their pockets since salaries and other expenditures won’t have to be paid.
* On the other side of the coin, those teams that are in struggling markets, or markets with a smaller and less loyal fan base will lose less. The Blue Jackets, Islanders, Nashville, and maybe even the Florida Panthers won’t continue bleeding red, and showing clearly that this whole tennis match is about money. Who will hold onto more, and who will lose less under the current/previous arrangement. Which I repeat was good enough seven years ago when league wide revenues were lower than they are today.
* The owners know that they have control by taking such a hard stance, and the players with Donald Fehr at the bargaining table for them know that they will have to give in somewhere. But then Bettman said this last week as well:
“We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans,” said Bettman.
Now there are a few ways to take that statement. However in this writers opinion Bettman does himself no favors by insulting my intelligence and yours with the assumption that no matter what we will come back. Just because we did last time, doesn’t mean that everyone will this time. In comparison to when baseball had it’s labor issues in the 90’s, I know a number of die hard fans who said enough is enough and couldn’t care less about America’s favourite past time. As for hockey, which many of us are so passionnate about, we will come back no matter how long this lasts. Or will we?
I know for a fact that I will return, but should there be any lost time and games, I will be miserable because of it, and the two sides will make each other look like each one is at fault. Bettman said that there was no reason to begin discussions early last season. He felt that there was more than enough time to complete a deal that both sides would find appealing. To me that statement indicates that with where things are now, his master plan was to have the players association by short hairs, and would have one of two things happen….the players would cave into the owners demands, or there would be another stoppage, thus allowing the “rich” teams to save money, and the “poorer” teams to lose less.
The economics of hockey have changed greatly since I became a fan, and I realize that it’s become more of a business than it used to be. Unfortunately, the more this becomes about money, the more it becomes about people not being able to afford attending a game as well. Technology being what it is today, there are less expensive ways to see games than by going in person. The die hard fan with the disposable income will still be able to have the dollars to go, albiet to less games in some instances. The fan that’s been on the fence however will either rely on alternative methods of viewing, or will walk away completely. That reality is something that should not be taken lightly.
Finally, and my “extra point”, a lockout hurts the NHL at different levels. A season of lost games will cause certain players to retire earlier than they may have wanted to. Younger players will lose the chance to hone their skills and improve at the league level. Other players who do nothing while this is going on, and risk coming back with more rust on them than my first car. Players who are on the “bubble” at the league level could lose their jobs to the next wave of youth that has been working on their skills in the AHL or even in juniors. What happens to a player like Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers? Destined to make his NHL debut this season. The domino effect is in play here more than we know.
Right now all we have is hope. Hope that both sides are able to work out a deal, and end this proposturous battle that never should have come to this point.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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