There are few players as ubiquitous to hockey, at least from my point of view, as Mark Recchi. This is why, when he weighs in on a matter, I tend to listen. So, when I happened to come across an article by ESPN’s James Murphy (not the James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem despite my initial excitement. Seriously, how awesome would that be?) discussing the CBA talks with Recchi, I decided to take a peek.
I know we all have our own takes on the negotiations and most are (justifiably) cynical, Recchi offers a surprisingly optimistic view on how everything will shake out. The quote that jumped out the most, for me anyway, was this one:
Both sides realize we can’t afford another lockout. The game has grown so much in the United States over the past six years since the last lockout. The Kings winning it all this year, Boston the year before and Chicago before that, so you won back those Original Six cities and it’s going so well now. So you have to believe, and based on talks I have had on both sides, everyone realizes how bad another lockout will be. That’s why I think we’ll be OK and they will find a solution and avoid that.
This actually makes a lot of sense. Prior to the first lockout, so much of the talk was centered around trying to win back audiences in America. I know I was guilty of many a tirade against Gary Bettman as I angrily wondered why the hell there was a hockey team in Columbus (sometimes I wonder if Scott Howson feels the same way) or why there are two teams in Florida. Apologies to fans of teams in those places, of which I know exist and have even met, but at the time these were questions that needed to be asked yet were never truly answered.
Then, as Recchi points out, Americans kind of, sort of started to care about hockey again. Yes, this was helped by the big-market teams finding success but, for the first time in as long as I can remember, small market teams began to see an upswing as well. I even heard stories from Bourne about how people were actually going to bars in Phoenix to watch the Coyotes playoff run to which my reaction was “go outside, you live in Phoenix for Christ’s sake,” but, nonetheless, it meant nothing but good things for the league.
Now that the league is experiencing something resembling a renaissance down south, Recchi is correct in saying that it is a somewhat different situation than we faced six years ago. That being said, at what point do those involved in talks allow for this notion to affect negotiations. Recchi’s notion is an admirable one if not slightly utopic and naive, and one you would hope would have some sort of impact on people in charge of making decisions.
Of course, this is reality and I am not the Magical Man from Happy-Land so I cannot share Recchi’s views even though I totally agree with them. In an ideal world, everything Recchi said would be true and both sides would see past their differences and realize that another lockout would be absolutely devastating for the NHL (arguably even moreso than the last one). This is, after all, a league which is thriving and in which the owners have the ability to sign players to contracts like the ones signed by Weber, Suter, Parise and Crosby this off-season yet wish to drop the player’s revenue shares exponentially (math words!). I don’t really have a horse in this race, I just don’t want hockey to stop again, but, come on, that offer was ridiculous.
Point is, Recchi’s opinions seem to represent the minority of people who actually have the ability to make decisions when it comes to labor negotiations. Perhaps I’m cynical but greed will win out over common sense every time. I still have faith that a lockout will be avoided, if only because I don’t think the NHL (or, more specifically, Gary Bettman) can recover from two lockouts in six years, even if only from a PR standpoint, but I don’t see negotiations coming to a close any time soon. This is going to get worse before it gets better, purely because it always does.
Or maybe I’m wrong and Recchi represents something of a shift in mindsets. Here’s hoping. For as The Dismemberment Plan once said, “I’d rather be happy than right this time”.