‘Winning’ side in NHL lockout? ‘just lose, baby’
Not picking sides in this lame game
VANCOUVER — It’s like the ratings war between Jersey Shore and the Kardashians, or any game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, or the debate in men’s fashion between capri pants and denim cutoffs: You just want both sides to lose.
National Hockey League owners versus players? Just lose, baby.
Of course, by extending the dumbest lockout in professional sports history to 111 days, it’s already a lose-lose proposition no matter how or when this ends.
Anger turned to apathy a while ago for most fans. But when you think you’re all out of scorn, indifferent to the pathetic, ongoing battle of greed, ego and ideology, the millionaires and billionaires stage a week like this one just to slap you in the chops one more time, then smirk at you for still being gullible enough to still hope for hockey.
With the sides separated by what amounts to a few pages of fine print — really, pensions and escrow deductions? — and what’s left of a potential season swirling in the toilet bowl, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and players’ union boss Donald Fehr chose to do nothing after the sides inched toward a deal on Wednesday.
Full bargaining sessions expected Thursday did not materialize and by late afternoon Friday the only meetings had been with a mediator. One side at a time.
In one of the most frenetic cities on the planet, Fehr and Bettman are two of the least-hurried guys in New York.
You can hardly blame them. The league’s only torching about $100 million a week, there’s still another 7-10 days to fabricate a season and have you seen the sale prices at Macy’s?
Fehr, especially, just won’t be rushed. His instincts as a negotiator no doubt tell him the best deal for his clients won’t be available until he has Bettman so desperate and flustered the commissioner is about to formally cancel the entire season. Naturally, this brinkmanship also pushes the NHL to the teetering point, where it may become too late to save the season. But, hey, Fehr’s a baseball legend and this is only ice hockey. Ice hockey!
Those who have endured my semi-weekly thoughts on the lockout — and for those sick of reading/listening/thinking about it, one way or another this will all be over soon – know I have mostly sympathized with the players. They are forced to fix the owners’ incompetence and early on in the dispute offered a $250-million-a-year concession on revenue that should have led to a speedy resolution.
But for the second time in as many months, it appears to be Fehr who is sabotaging the process. In December, after owners and players got together without Fehr or Bettman and had the most productive and positive day of the lockout, the union boss reinserted himself and negotiations promptly derailed.
After another hopeful day on Wednesday, the NHLPA was outraged to “discover” that Bettman had slipped new contract language regarding revenue oversight into the owners’ proposal. That would be the proposal tendered on Dec. 27, the one Fehr and other PA lawyers dissected line-by-line for more than two days before presenting a counter offer.
Bettman had proposed that he sit in judgment over owners, as he sits in judgment over most everything in the NHL, rather than have defined and severe penalties for owners caught hiding revenue in order to deprive players’ their share of it.
Yes, players were astonished and horrified. The rest of us should be astonished and horrified that we’re expected to believe Fehr, the NHLPA’s legal team and the players’ 31-member negotiating committee “discovered” Bettman’s treachery only on Thursday which, coincidentally, was the day after Fehr spilled the ace up his sleeve by allowing the union’s disclaimer-of-interest option to expire unused.
So instead of getting back to full-scale bargaining, the NHLPA has been busy re-voting whether to disband their union which, the theory goes, would re-arm Fehr and force Bettman and owners to stop fooling around.
Because, like, it was only this week players realized Bettman should not be trusted and until now they assumed everything the NHL did was in good faith.
If players haven’t been taking inventory of their wallets, shoes and Rolexes every time they leave a meeting with Bettman, they’re as foolish as they are stubborn.
Bettman’s the guy who has locked them out three times, the guy who lied to reporters about the Phoenix Coyotes, the guy whose governors approved a spending orgy on free agents in the final days of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement before demanding massive concessions from players because the NHL economy was unsustainable.
The caustic lack of trust and respect has been the undercurrent of this labour squabble all along. As it has progressed, the rest of us have merely learned to distrust Fehr as much as Bettman because neither has any regard for fans or the game itself.
So, go Gary! Go Donald! Just go.
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