Will NHL arenas see big league action this winter? (Getty Images)
I’m not optimistic. The league I’ve loved since childhood and the players I follow haven’t given me any reason to be.
Two weeks of the season have already been cancelled and when the NHL and NHLPA met recently, it wasn’t to discuss the core issues that are driving a wedge between them. These are two sides that have already blown up an entire year in the name of solidarity. It doesn’t appear any real progress has even started to be made this time, either. The constant bickering is sickening and embarrassing.
What’s it all for? Anyone who cares to honestly look at the situation for what it is will deduce both players and owners are equally to blame. And if you aren’t willing to concede that, who cares? Both sides have every right to ask for what they’ve been asking for, but no solution will be made until compromise and compassion enter the lexicon. This isn’t an “I’m right, you’re wrong” reality – it’s a scenario where the owners need an adjustment, the players have to realize they aren’t entitled to everything an expired agreement entitled them to and that when they refuse to work together, they make no money and the fans they claim to care about lose.
For weeks, mortars of malice have dropped all around the negotiations – misleading arguments to try and sway public opinion; or snotty, sarcastic remarks running down a disagreeable opponent. It’s all part of the game, all part of the process. But as the shenanigans escalate without peaceful progress being made, we could find the nuclear option on the table again in a few short months.
The NBA and NFL went through the same game of vitriol, but at least they solved it before an entire year was erased from history.
Blind partisanship distorts the issues at hand, disrespecting and misinforming the masses. Nothing about it is helpful toward a conclusion. As more games get cancelled, more fans will become turned off by the insincerity of it all. Many have already checked out of the debate.
Hockey is in dire need of inspiration. More than ever, hockey leadership needs the people who will step out of the echo chamber and promote the unpopular opinions. Are any players in closed-door meetings speaking out in recognition of the fact they’ll have to give back? That they’re not going to receive 57 percent of revenues for happily ever after because it was the agreement once upon a time?
And are any of these supposed owners who can’t afford or don’t want a lockout, but who apparently back the tactic of shutting down the league, voicing their concerns over the ridiculous way the NHL runs and negotiates its business? Who knows where the real truth to this lies. But hockey will never be big-league in the USA if it continues to operate with such bush-league, winner-take-all, pre-PA mentalities.
Late Calgary owner Harley Hotchkiss helped bridge the gap that closed the last lockout, but who will carry that torch this time, and will he rise up only after it’s too late? Damage has already been done – irreparable damage is on the horizon.
It’s great the players are more educated and active in the proceedings this time around. And it’s great the owners seem to have budged somewhat off their initially degrading proposal. But none of it means a lick until they and their supporters get honest and recognize the others’ right to either adjust the economic landscape from an elapsed deal, or not give up freedoms of employment.
The dripping dishonesty is poisonous – it’s time to look in the mirror for a cure.
But I have no reason to be optimistic.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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