Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mr. Bettman brings out the padlocks...

It has not gone without notice here at the HockeyNation that we've not posted an item on hockey since June 11th, the last real day of celebration of a sport we all enjoy.

It was that date that the NHL handed off Lord Stanley's Mug to the LA Kings, in celebration of hockey excellence in 2011-12, a chance no doubt to build the brand in Southern California and provide hope for such troubled franchises as Phoenix and Florida to name a few.

A chance that has perhaps been lost once again, now that yet another labour disruption has intruded into that glow.

With rumblings of  labour discontent (or at least ownership desires for a larger share of the generated revenues) on the horizon, we sat back and listened to the drum beats of war such as they are in the NHL.

A prospect of no hockey come September, left us less than interested in such things as the draft, the free agency and all of that, our thoughts being as the younger generation these days would say, meh, let us know if there is something to watch on the ice.

And as summer begins to morph into fall it would seem there won't be any hockey in the short term at least.

The NHL allowed the CBA to expire on midnight of Saturday night, setting up the fourth labour disruption in the league's history, the third of the reign of Gary Bettman.

Very much a case of millionaires fighting millionaires, the battle such as it will be seemingly to move the percentage points a few positions towards the owners side of the business ledger.

What appears to be lost on both sides of this dispute is the fact that in a world economy that struggles for the folks that actually follow the sport, it's very much a case of rich guys fighting it out over how to get richer, frankly we just don't relate.

Most fans probably don't understand the NHL's business plan or structure, a strange little strategy that places franchises in locations that don't seem to much like hockey (as empty seats will testify), leaving behind cities (many in Canada we note) where the game not only resonates and is part of the fabric of the community, but are locations that would support a team and a league with full rinks and bountiful revenues.

On the players side, fans perhaps wonder about a labour base that makes millions of dollars to play a game, already well compensated, many might wonder just what those players might do for a living had they not through hard work, sacrifice of their parents and of course their own talent made their way through the building blocks of hockey from minor to the pro.

No one begrudges them their success, but at some point the zeros on the salary negotiations become dizzying and rather unrealistic to the average fan.

In an economic era of high unemployment  and fears that a recession is but a few unfortunate twists away from a depression,  the idea that the average fan might have sympathy for either side seems laughable.

Most probably struggle to put together the monthly payments for real issues, the electricity, the gas, tuition for their kids, health payments and other necessities of life, perhaps wondering about the wisdom of even the monthly cable or satellite subscription that lets them sit back and watch hockey come the fall.

The idea of season tickets more likely a dream that just isn't in the budget, with even the chance to attend the odd game perhaps but the thing of wishful thinking.

So, whenever the two sides get back together again to see if there is common ground, maybe factor in the idea that you both are alienating the very folks that give your game any relevance, let alone monetary value.

Saturday's deadline and lock out is actually a false start, the real lock out would start with the first game of the regular season in October, that's when the reality of it all will come home, until then it's just more and more of the same old positioning we were treated to through July and August, a tiresome dance that really holds little of interest to most.

Add onto that the rather hypocritical events of the last few weeks, where GM's and owners that are complaining so much about the current  terms of the CBA have been rushing to sign up their key players heading into the lockout, signing them to contract terms of the CBA they apparently despise so much.

It's enough to think perhaps Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr need to spend some time with Dr. Phil, to better understand the inconsistencies of it all.

From time to time we may check back in to see if anything has developed, to that end we recommend subscribing to the HockeyNation email alert program atop our page right, any updates to our blog will be delivered to your email address for your reading enjoyment.

For how long the terms of labour contracts will replace shifts on the ice remains to be seen.

Many observers are suggesting that the idea of a full season off the ice is unlikely, instead they suggest we may see some hockey by November, just in time for the HBO 24/7 previews that have led into the Winter Classic game of New Years Day.

Maybe yes, maybe no, at the moment now there's no hockey camps set to open, yet another season for hockey fans to ponder if the game as we have known it over the last few years isn't just a little bit broken.

The owners and the players have the opening words in this latest dispute, the fans both in franchise cities and at home can have the final ones, while in the end hockey fans will no doubt return to the game when it makes it back to the rink.

There's nothing to say that we can't take our time doing it, leaving a few nights of empty rinks and tepid ratings as a reminder that hockey exists only because of its fans, something that both sides seem to forget most of the time.

Below we offer up some points of note from the lockout day, a helpful synopsis of where we are and how we got there.

However, we do suggest that this Roy MacGregor's Globe and Mail column is definitely worth a read or two, maybe three. In fact we suggest that both the NHL owners and players pass it around, it nicely sums up how hockey fans should perceive all this madness.

Globe and Mail-- With players officially locked out, where does NHL go from here?
Globe and Mail-- Timeline of NHL labour negotiations
Globe and Mail-- Put the chicken wings back in the freezer, businesses brace for lockout
Globe and Mail-- Reasons the lockout will be short and why the season may be in jeopardy
Globe and Mail-- Hypocrisy or cynicism? NHL races to sign players before midnight lockout
National Post-- The NHL lockout has officially arrived
National Post-- NHL lockout a stalemate seven years in the making
National Post-- What the #!%*?: Explaining the NHL lockout
National Post-- NHL players begin hunt for other hockey options in wake of lockout
National Post-- Mark your calendar: The NHL lockout starts Saturday night
National Post-- NHL lockout surrounded by flurry of roster moves
Toronto Sun-- NHL lockout deadline passes
Toronto Sun-- 3 Strikes on Bettman
Toronto Sun-- Sidney Crosby and NHLPA's Donald Fehr go back a ways
Toronto Sun-- Bill Daly and Steve Fehr keep lines of communications open
Toronto Sun-- Little sympathy for NHL owners
Toronto Sun-- Odds in favour of long NHL lockout
Toronto Sun-- Bettman cries poor while NHL teams go on spending spree
Toronto Star-- NHL lockout: Day 1 begins with no end in sight
Toronto Star-- NHL, NHLPA relationship 50 shades of Nasty
Toronto Star-- New Leaf owners Rogers, Bell get painful introduction
Toronto Star-- Sticky issues, possible solutions to hockey impasse -- Sides tay away from bargaining table as NHL enters another lockout Commissioner Bettman shows emotion in defending NHL stance: no deal, no season Gridlock and it's getting personal NHL fans been down this road before

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