The NHL Lockout continues. Talks between the NHL, and its owners, and the NHLPA have broken off once again. After a week of promising meeting between the two sides, in what appeared to be a fevered attempt to end the lockout and save the season, the owners now maintain that they are awaiting a new proposal from the NHLPA.
The owners claim that the players were being unreasonable when they dismissed the reportedly $211 million “make whole” provision, offered by the NHL last week. Players were frustrated by some of the fine print, including the clauses dealing with the elements that make up player contracts. The result of these frustrations on both sides is yet another stalemate in the talks to save not only the season, but also the future of the game.
Never mind this season, and whether it can be saved or not, the focus must be on saving what is left of the integrity of NHL hockey. This is a sport that is widely regarded as one of the toughest, both physically and mentally, and yet all the parties are involved in a hissy fit of near-tragic proportions. I’ve seen this type of argument before, but it usually ended with one of my grade school friends taking the ball and going home. The NHL Lockout has come down to this: the owners have essentially said “You don’t like my rules? Then I’m taking the puck and going home to tell Mom!” This logic is only used by children because it is, well, childish.
These are men. Men who are usually seen throwing hits that make NFL linebackers cringe. Men who will drop the gloves and chuck knuckles if someone even looks at their teammates wrong. Men who can slap a puck into the top corner of a net, through ten guys and from 40 feet away. All of this while skating on the slipperiest surface possible. On the other side there are men who can manage a business well enough to see it’s profits almost double in a few short years. Men who also can sell a sport to more markets in more cities than ever before. These are men in these talks, but they choose to act like children.
Unfortunately, this type of childish behavior could result in a timeout being dealt to them. Not the timeout where you sit in the corner and think of what you’ve done, but the kind that could cost you more than you think you’ll gain. Sponsors might decide that they don’t want to bother entering into contracts with teams, or the sport as a whole, if the entire thing comes to a halt every few years when the two sides have to negotiate a new agreement. Fans will have a hard time forgiving and forgetting if they are disregarded when the two sides come to an impasse. The players and owners aren’t the only ones who can take their ball and go home.
The truth of the matter is that no one is going to win here. Fans have lost over two months of hockey. Sponsors have already found other teams, sports and markets to focus in on. Players have already lost several paychecks. Owners have paid rent on arenas that lay dormant and empty. More and more players are signing with foreign teams. The NHL lockout is bad for everyone, especially the fans.
It’s time to man up NHL.