[scene]

[NARRATOR]
The 2012-13 NHL Lockout (TM) is a little bit like a WWE match. Each party has their script, they know the match will end with hockey games at some point (?) and they have their bevvy of special moves which will wow us until somebody taps.

Watcha gonna do when Fehrmania destroys you, brother?

He’s been here before. He is battle tested, ready and willing. Donald Fehr has no problem — none — with the idea of a lockout, but he’ll be damned if public opinion isn’t on his side in the process.

He is a puppeteer of Team America proportions. The NHLPA: F— Yeah!

The latest act in a forthcoming mandatory first year course for all PR programs was a scene Fehr has had in his backpocket for sometime.

Enter totally objective third party with no financial tie to player salaries (cough) Allan Walsh from stage left:

[NARRATOR] Oh snap. The NHLPA is totally willing to play, you guys! It’s just the greedy owners who don’t want them to play and it’s terrible that they’re doing all of this. Shame on them. Shame on all of them. Let’s not forget that this lockout is totally illegal, right?

 

[NARRATOR]

Shots fired.

They’re rolling now, the NHLPA is a steamroller of heart and soul and they are going to will their way back on to the ice, regardless of what Rich Uncle Pennybags wants. They are our heroes and the owners are our heels. You can’t take their game from them, and they just dropped a bomb on you that you never saw com-wait, what?

 

[NARRATOR]

The reversal.

Not unexpected? But HOW? We didn’t see it coming, and we’re way smarter than the NHL. That’s why we pay money to boo Gary Bettman. Oh, right. Precedent.

The recognition.

Donald Fehr has done this before. In 1994 during the MLB Player’s Strike, Major League Baseball moved to put replacement players on the field. The MLBPA, led by Mr. Fehr, countered with the same move as neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor Montreal Expos were legally permitted to accept replacement players. The lockout went on.

The NHL knew this was coming, and if you think that this will change their script — which was formulated with this in mind — you’re kidding yourself.

The NHLPA’s latest moves and the manner in which they’ve forwarded the information — you’ll note that self-interested non-union members are spearheading the charge — is all about PR. They want the media behind them, they want the fans behind them so that when they are in front of a microphone — be it in a CBA meeting or a press conference — they can point at all the people in their corner and say, ‘See?

The NHL wins this game by waiting out the players, signing less paycheques and finding a system wherein they stop hemorrhaging money. Much of the hemorrhaging is self-inflicted in this instance, but the reality is that for this league to survive — and judging by the desperation of fans who want this season to happen, that is a good thing — they need to find a system that works.

The 2012-13 season is set to be the third NHL season either diminished or lost due to a labor dispute in 18 years. The system is broken and we need a solution. The problem is exacerbated, however, when the process devolves into a sniping process designed to win a PR battle instead of hashing out the issues with the league itself.

Many will recall that the NFL was locked out for much of the summer of 2011. The season went ahead as planned, but it wasn’t clear that it would until the last possible moment. Their process was steeped in what seemed like petty injunctions and red tape. With the benefit of hindisght the reality is that the most profitable league in the world was throwing out all the stops to try and sort out the money in courts.

The NHL is considerably less productive.

Hockey gains nothing from the NHL and NHLPA’s PR war. Straw man arguments and inflammatory social media wars don’t give the league financial clarity, and they certainly don’t get anyone closer to puck drop. Sure, no hockey gives the owners a chance to keep their wallets tight. Sure, hockey in the NHL or elsewhere gets players paid.

Does it ensure things are sustainable five or more years from now? Hell no.

The moral.

As we near the inevitable date confirming the absence of NHL hockey, we’ll be bombarded more and more with hollow tactics to sway our opinion one way or the other. It’s up to us as fans, writers, analysts, concession stand workers or loiterers outside the rink to know the difference between shameless peddling and trying to fix the problem.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we want the league to play games so we can be sold or do we want to have a league that actually plays the game its meant to?

If you want to be sold, buy into the polarizing nonsense of one of the parties. Bettman can be your demon, and Fehr can be his reckoning or vice versa. You can help both sides spew the nonsense as far as thee twitter account will take you and call it a day when this thing ends.

Or you can tune out, and tune back in when you feel like it. No rush though, they’re banking on you crawling back any minute now and plan to use that against you. It literally makes no difference if you bust through the front door on opening day.

The Rock says: It doesn’t matter what your name is. Make your decision and react accordingly.

*Insert predictable finishing move*

[/scene]

Comments (7)

  1. Is “the predictable finishing move” the player’s association rolling over and playing dead?

  2. “Not unexpected? But HOW? We didn’t see it coming, and we’re way smarter than the NHL. That’s why we pay money to boo Gary Bettman.”

    To be fair, it is kind of fun paying to go boo Gary Bettman.

  3. i really wish I had photoshop at work

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/A2c7zP4CIAE62bq.jpg

  4. I thought a fair bit about this during the weekend when I had some down time. My initial thoughts were that the NHL offered a crappy deal to the players and that the NHLPA did a great job with a new offer. The more I look at it, the NHLPA did a great offer for the press and really did not do too much for the league. And the NHL is right to say that it is their way or the highway.

    We all know that this should end around a 50/50 split (like the NFL and basketball). The NHL’s proposal is now at 46% but the NHLPA’s offer has only offered to take some of the increases off the table and to bring it back to 57% in year four. The NHLPA did offer to show out the NHL could help each of the worse teams with revenue sharing et al.

    The players are completely replaceable. A percentage change every year – it is just a fact. Let’s say it is 15% turnover (it is probably higher). Do you think there are 5 ownership changes each year (15%)? Not a chance in hell. There are only so many rich stupid people that want the fame and friendship owning a team gets them. They are not replicable. Really, they are not.

    If the rules dictate that they can not control themselves and need to set up other rules to help that, then so be it. The players now average 2.2M per year and with a 20 drop (to 1.8M) the players would still be making a huge amount of money for a league that makes next to nothing from US TV stations. If they think that ownership is so fruitful let them own the team. I promise you they would have a much lower cap hit if that happened.

    As far as the cap goes, think of it this way. You take your very fat friend to a buffet and tell him that he should only eat 1,000 calories and he should be smart enough to restrict himself. Some may but most will just hope that the buffet shuts down before they gorge themselves. The NHLPA can tell the owners that the fault is all their own but that does not fix the situation or even help it along. The owners are fat and need to be taken away from the buffet however it happens. And stop making new ways to avoid the cap (IR, minors, Europe) so that the real cap stands and that makes some of the owner wary of even thinking of going to the buffet. The NHLPA just wants them all to have the same amount of food but not hurt what they get.

    It is great that the NHLPA are all signing on the same song page, unlike the last time. But the reality is that the buffet is shutting down for a few years (the average salary will pass the 2.2M in four years according to the owner’s proposal) but there is still lots of food for the players to gnaw on.

  5. “The problem is exacerbated, however, when the process devolves into a sniping process designed to win a PR battle instead of hashing out the issues with the league itself.”

    The league is spending just as much time trying to win the PR battle. It’s as natural as breathing.

    Second, is deal making time truly being lost at the expense of Twitter back and forths? That supposes the NHL genuinely wants to collaborate on making a deal to start the season on time.

    Both sides want to get as much as they can, but the league has the upper hand in this situation. And the owners know it.

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