There’s Just No Point to This

This is stupid. This is lunacy. This borders on indecent.

That the Blue Jackets will have to wade their way through the second lockout in their short history is beyond belief.

And make no mistake, no one is blameless. The NHL Players’ Association dragged out negotiations. Then the NHLPA ignored the lapse of the old collective bargaining agreement September 15th calling it an “artificial deadline.”

Sure it’s an artificial deadline…in the same way that the posted speed limit is an artificial limit on how fast your car can go.

At a time when the players are rightly calling for shared sacrifice, Yahoo Sports detailed the cluelessly tone-deaf way the union muddled that message.

“They ask the NHL to cut other costs while asking for business-class flights and single rooms in luxury hotels, and they say they stand on principle while meeting at the New York Marriott Marquis, a non-union hotel, as the Fortune Limousine service idles outside. A black SUV displays an NHLPA sign and this license plate: ‘FORTUNE1.'”

It’s a quibble, but they also do themselves a disservice by continually pointing to the salary-cap free sport of Major League Baseball as an example of how to achieve labor peace, when it’s really the salary-capped NFL that has most rewarded its fans by playing the games as scheduled.

“The NHL has lost 1,698 regular season games due to labor issues [since 1992], more than baseball (938), the NBA (504) and the NFL (0) combined.” -Ansar Khan

For all this, though, it should also be stipulated that players want to play.

It’s not quite as clear that commissioner Gary Bettman likes it when the games actually take place.

As Minnesota winger Zach Parise observed of Bettman, “He really loves his lockouts.”

There have been three lockouts under the commissioner’s watch. Multiple media outlets have documented how this makes the NHL the most dysfunctional when it comes to their labor situation of any of the so-called “major four” sports.

And this latest work stoppage is to “fix” the system that owners missed the entire 2004-2005 season to create, a system that until recently Bettman was arguing wasn’t broken. (Watch the first few minutes of his 2011 State of the League speech if you can stomach it.)

Now put yourself in the position of the players. Imagine your boss brags of making a record $3.28 billion last year. Then he asks you to make the following sacrifices:

    • He asks you to go from making 57% to 43% of the company’s revenue.
    • And he redefines revenue, so that your not only getting a smaller slice, you’re working with a smaller pie.
    • He wants to eliminate the previously established procedure of allowing you, at specified junctures, to seek the input of an independent arbitrator, who will help set your salary based on what other comparable employees in the industry are making.
    • He wants the right to treat you as an entry level employee, not for three years, but for five.

It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

NHL owners also want to limit the length of contracts to five years. That might be a discussion worth having, because there are too many players receiving deals that carry them long past their expiration dates. Also, some teams are using it as an end-run around salary cap rules.

However, how the league can argue that with a straight face after the NHL-run Phoenix Coyotes just gave 35-year-old Shane Doan a four-year deal is bewildering.

The league may argue that their original proposal was just a starting point. However, it’s naturally going to take longer to reach the finish line when the starters’ blocks are set so far away.

Or should I say Finnish line since some players are undoubtedly going to bide their time playing in Europe?

Fans have no such luxury. If games aren’t being played at their local arena, they just have to do without going to the rink. Bettman argues those fans will return in droves once the puck drops on the NHL season. Yes, he sounds like he’s callously taking for granted the loyalty of the league’s most ardent supporters, but they came back after the last work stoppage. Why not now?

How quickly Bettman seems to forget we’re still muddling our way through a painfully sluggish economy. And I do not use the term painfully lightly. There are people genuinely hurting.

He neglects to mention that back in 2006 there was the promise of a new, more wide-open, offensive game to lure in the casual observer. No such rule changes await this time round.

And will there be another bright young star that captures fans’ imaginations the way Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin did?

Even if Bettman’s money grab doesn’t alienate fans, how can it not damage relationships with sponsors and broadcast partners? Who’d want to chance investing in a league so prone to labor strife?

If you’re a Blue Jackets fan looking for a bright side, there is at least this: It’s looking like the CBJ won’t be losing as many games this October.


3 thoughts on “There’s Just No Point to This”

  1. After this lockout, I hope they don’t put the disingenuous ‘Thank You Fans’ on the ice. I could think of messages that would be more accurate such as ‘We Knew You’d Be Back’ or ‘Spend more, we need to make up for the games we missed’. There are problems with the current set up but negotiations should have started long before they did. Work around contract are crazy and lengths are even worse and a way to strengthen the weaker financially teams has to be found or the contraction calls will be louder and more teams will be moving. I’ve heard a lot of good ideas floating around but they don’t come from the NHL or the NHLPA.

    I will admit that I will be in front of my TV or at the game, reading every post at the Dispatch, watching Twitter and waiting to see where Lori and her hat and her microphone show up next.

  2. The worst part about this lockout is that the NHL won’t make it if they don’t play. Last time they lost their TV deal with ESPN, and it took nearly 5 years to make it back with NBC. If they lose NBC what happens? Does anybody really think Fox has forgotten how the league slapped them in the face with the NBC deal in the first place? This lockout could kill the league just when it was about to explode. It just regained the LA market, Nashville has a strong market and its growing in other non traditional markets like Columbus, and Phoenix. This is Bettmans third consecutive work stoppage. It is time for him to go and let someone, ANYONE else take over.

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