Saturday, January 08, 2005

Someone get us a hostage negotiator!

So it's come to this, on January 13th three months will have gone by without hockey , as of today (Jan 7) 575 games have been cancelled. No meetings have been held since before Christmas and none are scheduled. All that's missing is a bearded guy on the corner with an end is nigh sign!

And now we're treated to the idea, that the best offering that these two sides can come up with is that "it's the other guy's fault". With the clock ticking down faster, the skies getting darker and the frosty relations between the two sides colder than a Winnipeg morning in January, we'll be forgiven if we just assume that this season is a goner.

With the toxic dialogue between the two sides getting worse by the day, the hockey fan finds him or herself stuck in the middle, with nowhere to go. The NHL in a bid for our approval calls us "hostages". Bill Daly at the league office turns up the rhetoric in these final anxious days of deliberation, giving us the real fear that there will be no more hockey this year. Ted Saskin of the union counters with a firmly pointed finger, suggesting that all the ails of the situation rest with those intransigent NHL owners and their paid hands.

While they continue to keep the house lights dark in the arenas around the league, the business world is making note of the problems with the game and those that run it. The Business Week article which positions Gary Bettman as one of the worst managers of sport in America, is quickly becoming the talking point of the anti NHL forces. As Al Strachan points out in his work for the Sun Newspapers, Gary has a bit of NHL company in the list of the incompetent, Michael Eisner head quacker at the Mighty Ducks (for now anyways) made the list of the failing as did Sanjay Kumar once of the ownership block of the New York Islanders. If the NHL gene pool is this flawed, as Business Week suggests, one wonders who the deep thinkers might be.

The owners claim that it's the players that are ruining the game by refusing the concept of a salary cap, conveniently forgetting that it's their own collection of fellow spend thrifts that created the inflationary salary spiral in the first place. The owners who stand behind commissioner Bettman circle their wagons, keep their powder dry and wonder when that Goodenow guy will bend.

Over at the NHLPA they keep waiting for Bettman and Daly to blink, so far it hasn't happened and more than likely won't happen. Any suggestion that they should follow the lead of the NFL or the NBA and their player/management arrangements, are received with muted reaction. No salary caps here, a market free and unfettered seems to be the call of the union!

And so we all prepare for one last roll of the dice and wait for someone to salvage what has become so very close to a lost season, the fans hostage both to the NHL and the NHLPA, two sides willing to take their brinkmanship down to the final possible moment.

One wonders if Samuel L. Jackson can clear his calendar for this pivotal week for NHL hockey, more than a negotiator we need a S.W.A.T. Unit, perhaps that could get the attention of both sides to get it together or get out of the way!

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