Sunday, November 25, 2012

Soundtrack to the Shutdown: Bonnie Tyler and Heroes

An interesting essay on the NHL lockout in today's New York Post, where the Post's Larry Brooks calls for a Few Good NHL men to step up and be a hero in this vitriolic debate.

And while we're sure more than a few fans might find it hard to believe that a cabal of a few owners are holding the entire league hostage.

The good news out of all of this, if there is any good news we guess, is that the New York media still actually finds the NHL story interesting enough to offer up some coverage, so perhaps the league can be thankful for that, though maybe not so much the Commissioner himself.

Brooks does bring up an interesting theme, that of a split in the league's ownership class and the approach that Gary Bettman is taking in yet another labour dispute with the league's players. With a few apparently less than impressed with how things are going at the moment.

Surely, if the more monied of the collective wished for it, then this dispute would have long since been settled, so, we suspect that more than just a few are still onside with the thermo-nuclear model currently set to detonate.

Still, the article does offer up some evidence that all are not happy with the boss man, who after all works on behalf of the owners.

All in all though, we're not sure if the NHL needs a Hero or a Hostage Negotiator at this point...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hey Gary, Don! Don't worry, we're finding other things to do!

Well finally. here's something  that could finally help to spur on the negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA.

It appears that the fans at home and the audience for television aren't going to wait for the two sides to resolve their difference,  seemingly having found other pursuits to follow in the absence of their once favourite sport.


And this latest bit of news should give the NHL and the NHLPA cause for worry about the future.

Canadians it seems are doing just fine without the NHL. In fact, some it seems have found something that is just a little bit more rewarding than game number 378 on the endless regular season schedule

No, It's not basketball, football or even the World Poker Tour or UFC that is putting the NHL at risk.

Rather, it's er, uhm, how to put this... relationships, that might be the biggest threat to the league upon an eventual settlement.

Offering up the theory that the damage of the lock out may be too hard to repair with just a "Welcome back fans" and a few games on the tube.

And when it comes to all that NHL merchandise that the NHL flogged to the fan base through the season, well... Goodbye replica jersey's and bobblehead dolls!

Really, once Canadians get into the groove if you will, we suspect hockey in the end just isn't going to be able to compete with this.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two weeks for icing

When faced with a bit of adversity, the advice it seems is, walk away...

It would seem that things have become so heated between the NHL and the NHLPA that Gary Bettman is seeking a time out, a two week cooling off period for the two sides that will give the US based participants time to reflect we guess over Thanksgiving Turkey.

The latest puff of smoke from the Vatican, er, NHL offices offers up the cooling period as a constructive thing, seemingly by not talking they will get closer to a deal to salvage a season quickly ticking by.

It's an interesting thought, this new theory of How to Settle a Labour Dispute.

Perhaps it will make up a chapter in Gary Bettman's eventual scholarly tome on the issue. (After the many labour disputes , cancelled seasons and aura of acrimony that seems to steep in the NHL, his guide might be helpful as to how NOT negotiate a contract, run a league, go for a walk)

In fact, the idea of just walking away from it all it offers up a tantalizing prospect for fans of the game, following the Commissioners lead, we propose that upon any settlement (should such a fantasy ever arrive) that hockey fans take this policy to the next level.

How about NOT ATTENDING, NOT WATCHING, two weeks, two months, two seasons, whatever it takes, so do we have your attention yet Mr. Commissioner.

For the negotiating teams  how about this, come Thursday, pass on the pumpkin pie, better yet pack some turkey sandwiches and bring some extras and head back to the negotiating table, the only way this mess gets settled is for the two sides to start to act like adults.

Something that so far hasn't been offered up as a working theory.

A break for a couple of days to refocus on why both sides is there makes sense.

A couple of weeks?  Well not so much.

The Commissioner's cooling off thoughts have been the subject of much review, some of the more helpful contributions can be found below.

National Post-- Gary Bettman suggests a break from labour talks
National Post-- Pessimism reigns with negotiations between owners, players at a standstill
Toronto Star-- Cooling off period nothing personal, league says
CBC-- Negotiations still on hold in NHL lockout Bettman suggests to NHLPA that sides take a break in negotiations
Ottawa Sun-- Ex-Ottawa Senator Matt Carkner wants end to NHL lockout
Ottawa Citizen-- Blinkered thinking behind NHL impasse
Montreal Gazette-- Nothing to talk about in NHL lockout ... really?
Montreal Gazette-- Both sides are wrong in NHL labour dispute
Winnipeg Sun-- Jets think propose two-week break 'ridiculous'
Winnipeg Sun-- Eric Lindros gives NHL owners an "F" for role in lockout
Winnipeg Free Press-- Players jolted by Bettman's suggestion
Edmonton Journal-- The NHLPA's attack on Bettman's 'two week delay' is hypocritical
Edmonton Journal-- "Let's take a two-week break"
New York Post-- NHL talks hiatus may not last two weeks
New York Daily News-- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman backtracks on two week moratorium...
New York Daily News-- NHL's deputy commissioner Bill Daly discouraged...
Detroit Free Press-- Detroit's Ian White: Gary Bettman is an idiot
Detroit News-- Detroit Red Wings' Ian White on Gary Bettman: '... he's an idiot'
Chicago Sun Times-- Loyally screwed: NHL fans deserve better than this
Chicago Sun Times-- Blackhawks stars call NHL's new cancellations 'a scare tactic'
Chicago Tribune-- NHLPA hopes to continue talks next week Is Flyers' Snider helping thaw NHL talks?
NESN-- Paul Kelly "Hasn't seen" Reason for Optimism about NHL Labor Negotiations (video)

Bill Simmons for the prosecution

Of the volume of items that have come to fill space since September and the start of the latest in disruptions to our fall rituals, the most recent item posted to the always informative and entertaining GRANTLAND site perhaps is the best examination yet, as to how dysfunctional today's NHL is.

Written by Bill Simmons, the best selling author and the founder and current editor in chief of GRANTLAND,  the Bettman piece outlines the lengthy resume of disaster brought upon the NHL by its Commissioner, a searing indictment of a league that has taken a game with so much upside and for yet the umpteenth time, left it battered, bruised and abandoned in an ice filled ditch.

While the documentation of the league's past history is entertaining in a (Man, really, they did that?) kind of way.

The most interesting concept for hockey fans from the article would be the almost dream like sequence where we have a sweating Gary Bettman in front of an impeachment panel. Eyes no doubt shifting,  lawyers standing by to interject, as the Commissioner tries to explain how his many miscues could be construed as having been good for the game.

At this point of the latest mess that the NHL has found itself in, the impeachment concept is perhaps the only sliver of hope for a game (and its fans) that has suffered for so long under the Three Stooges like stewardship of both the NHL and NHLPA.

You have to start somewhere we guess, may as well be at the top.

The Grantland article is a must read for sports fans and business observers  alike, dragging out the NHL's blue print and laying waste to it in short, concise punches, each sentence another scathing indictment as to just how messed up the league really is.

For further research, we also recommend the Grantland podcasts, where detailed examinations of all sports can be found, occasionally even items on hockey, though we imagine that hockey falls further and further off the sports radar in the US by the day.

If we ever do get to the idea of an impeachment, lets nominate Mr. Simmons as the lead prosecutor, he seems to have the evidence trail quite handy.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Meanwhile over lunch... November 10th edition

Reports out of New York have it that the NHL and NHLPA have spent a rather large amount of time just throwing down the dis-respect. The two sides perhaps starting to grate on each others nerves, as these latest negotiation sessions drag on and on and on. Apparently go south a bit, and we don't mean to Florida.

At least that's what we can divine from the many twitter posts and news accounts issued from the assembled media types, who have been quick to their tweets and reports with the back and forth of the Grade 8 level banter between the two sides.

Labour talks turn sour after latest meeting
NHL, players fire shots as lockout talks break off
Don Fehr, Ron Hainsey and NHL players' union challenge NHL on accusations...
Gloves are off in NHL labour talks
NHL labour talks strike bump in the road on fourth consecutive day of negotiations
NHL must negotiate with Fehr, not attack him

All however is not lost, the two parties have apparently adjourned for a luncheon date, perhaps to discuss things a bit more, maybe a full belly will make them a little more amenable towards an eventual settlement.

Let's check in shall we...

Well, that's not particularly encouraging is it..

Then again, things could be worse we guess, the last time two groups got together in a New York restaurant it ended really, really badly...

The only advice we can offer the two sides at this point is, make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom before the meeting starts..

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Scenes from a secret negotiating table...

As word spreads of a secret destination for today's get together between the NHL and the NHLPA, we're kind of struck as to how these negotiation sessions are starting to resemble the plot line of that  classic old Billy Joel standard, Scenes from an Italian restaurant.

And while we understand that it's Bill and Steve today, we're hopeful that perhaps today's get together is somehow like two old friends brokering a reconciliation for their struggling friends...

So for dramatic licence, Insert Donny and Gary for Brenda and Eddie, and well you can all kind of follow along if you wish...

 For those that wish to sing along, open this link in a seperate window and warm up your vocal chords... 

The preamble to the negotiations perhaps? 

A bottle of white, a bottle of red, 
Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead. 
We'll get a table near the street 
In our old familiar place 
You and I - face to face 

A bottle of red, a bottle of white 
It all depends upon your appetite 
I'll meet you any time you want
 In our Italian Restaurant. 

Gary and Donny, Catching up on the months that went by...

Things are okay with me these days 
I got a good job, I got a good office 
I got a new wife, got a new life And the family is fine 

Oh we lost touch long ago 
You lost weight  
I did not know 
You could ever look so nice after so much time. 

Do you remember those days hanging out at the village green? 
Engineer boots, leather jackets and tight blue jeans 
Oh you drop a dime in the box play a song about New Orleans 
Cold beer, hot lights, my sweet romantic teenage nights 

And a little background about our two star crossed negotiators..

Brenda and Eddie (Donny and Gary) were the popular steadies 
And the king and the queen of the prom 
Riding around with the car top down and the radio on 
Nobody looked any finer 
Or was more of a hit at the Parkway Diner 
We never knew we could want more than that out of life 
Surely Brenda and Eddie(Donny and Gary) would always know how to survive.

Brenda and Eddie (Gary and Donny) were still going steady in the summer of '75 
When they decided the marriage would be at the end of July 
Everyone said they were crazy 
"Brenda (Donny) you know that you're much too lazy 
and Eddie (Gary) could never afford to live that kind of life." 
Oh, but there we were wavin' Brenda and Eddie (Donny and Gary) goodbye. 

Looked good for a while there, but Oh, oh, oh!  But there's trouble on the way... 

Well they got an apartment with deep pile carpets 
And a couple of paintings from Sears 
A big waterbed that they bought with the bread 
They had saved for a couple of years 
but they started to fight when the money got tight 
And they just didn't count on the tears. 

Well, they lived for a while in a very nice style 
But it's always the same in the end 
They got a divorce as a matter of course 
And they parted the closest of friends 
Then the king and the queen went back to the green 
But you could never go back there again 

Oh, oh Brenda and Eddie (Donny and Gary) had had it already by the summer of '75 
From the high to the low to the end of the show 
For the rest of their lives 
They couldn't go back to the greasers 
The best they could do was pick up their pieces 
We always knew they would both find a way to get by 
Oh and that's all I heard about Brenda and Eddie (Donny and Gary) 
Can't tell you more 'cause I've told you already 
And here we are wavin' Brenda and Eddie  (Donny and Gary) goodbye 

Yeah, it  leaves us all where we are right now, waiting to hear if those two crazy kids can patch it up and live happily ever after...

Or at least until the next contract, whenever it come about, expires..

A bottle of red, a bottle of white, 
Whatever kind of mood you're in tonight I'll meet you anytime you want 
In our Italian Restaurant.

We'll see how it all turns out this weekend, will the secret get together bring them closer together, or...

Is the next Billy Joel song on the NHL/NHLPA jukebox this one?

Time will tell.

(Words and lyrics from Billy Joel, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, Album: The Stranger)