NHL/NHLPA: A pox on both their houses
So, according to the great sage of TSN, Bob McKenzie, unless there’s some kind of quantum shift in the stances of the league and the player’s association, hockey fans will be facing their third stoppage in play in recent memory.
Where is the fan left in all this? I think we become the sports equivalent of an “unsecured creditor” during an insolvency proceeding. We’re pretty sure we’re owed something but damned unlikely to collect on it.
Yes, there’s been posturing, and yes, there’s been rhetoric so thick you could drive a Zamboni on it. What else would you expect when the two point men in this lover’s tiff are lawyers by profession. Neither one really has roots in hockey. Bettman came from the NBA and Fehr came from MLB. I think it’s safe to say neither one cares about the Game itself.
But what about the players? Surely they care, right? Well, given that we only just heard of their “desire to play this season and avoid a stoppage” you might think so, but where was that sentiment at the end of the last season? Where was the active negotiation? Where was the real effort to avoid brinksmanship? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Yep, that’s what I thought.
So, here’s my own open letter to the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association.
Once again, we, the fans of professional hockey, find ourselves on the brink of that abyss politely known as a ‘work stoppage’.
As a possible salve on your collective wounds, perhaps a missive from a fan – whom you both devoutly profess to serve and honour – might serve to add some perspective. While I know simple solutions to complex problems are actively discouraged in the business world, maybe this is time to toss out your respective playbooks and try something new.
Are you ready for this?
That’s it. Play the game.
You see, even the lowest paid among the players earns a salary almost unthinkable for the average working stiff, and the owners deal in sums of money that defy imagination, even when speaking of alleged losses. This rarified air that you all breathe is causing you to lose sight of something: The Game. It’s lost in player agent negotiations and seat licenses and signing bonuses and no-trade clauses. It’s lost in the over-inflated concession prices and TV rights and merchandising.
What happened to the love of the game? What happened to the kid who stickhandled frozen horse patties on a frozen prairie pond? What happened to the kid who bashed the hell out of a dryer working on his shot?
Gone. Long gone, it would seem.
You love the game, you say? You want to entertain the fans, you say?
Get training camp going, stop all this needless compensatory testicular posturing, stop holding the real fans hostage, and just play. Keep talking, but play on.
Right now you’re drawing lines in the sand that you both have to know are untenable and indefensible. Lockout or no lockout something has to give it the game we know risks marginalization yet again. All the goodwill built up after the last time we did this dance may be past recovering.
Of course, I don’t expect you to listen to me. I fully anticipate you’ll both proceed on your respective courses like Titanic to the iceberg. Once again we – the fans – will wonder what the heck happened.
I know you’re still headed blindly on so all I can say to you is this: A Pox on Both Your Houses. Right now you deserve each other.