Well, it has come to this. While my original prediction that the National Hockey League season would start up in late December is still very much in the realm of possibility, it’s become tiresome to continually write about the lockout. The public theatre also seems to bug a bunch of people, so I’ve been inspired to transfer some of the major characters from the NHL’s labour dispute to the world of Shakespeare. This was mostly so I would have the chance to characterize Gary Bettman as the equivalent of Billy’s Richard III, a deformed manipulator who became one of literature’s classic villains.
Scene One (Inspired by Richard III)
Toronto, hotel lobby
Enter GARY BETTMAN
Now comes the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this Son of Troy
And all the clouds that lowered in ’04
In the deep cover of our revenue projections
Now when we escaped penetrative fog
Our salary cap hung to our leather belts
Our share of revenue well above free market
Our returning patrons, eager to enter
Grim-messag’d segments of ice “Thank You Fans!”
And now, years after the lost season
To fight the souls of strong adversaries
Fehr stands strong and bargains just too well
Scene Two (Inspired by The Merchant of Venice)
Online, an email thread
Enter REPORTER and RYAN MILLER
Why, I am sure, if thou playest, thou wilt not
With thy union, what’s it good for?
To bait Gary withal. Our union feeds else what?
It feeds slow congress. Gary hath disgraced us,
Hindered us millions; blamed us for losses,
Interrupted our gains, and is not i’good faith he
Bargains, this cool beast, to form heated enemies
Every seven years? For what reason? I am a player
Hath not pro athletes eyes, organs?
Dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Playing
The same game, hurt by the same transgressions, subject
To the same concussions, some yet to be healed,
Warmed in the winter and cooled in the summer, but
Is slow process. If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you lock us out, we do not play, poison
Our sport, we do feel wronged, as did
Basketball and football athletes before us
If we are like the rest, must we not
Decertify?—If a player wrong an owner,
What is his humility? A lockout. If an owner
Wrong a player, what should the sufferance be?
Why, none. Villainy a union cannot execute,
Powerless we are, but stand alone I will,
And better my standard contract
Scene Three (Inspired by Othello)
New York, a conference room
Enter JEREMY JACOBS
Who in Winnipeg is another fool for my purse
For mine own experience is to act profane
If I would expend time dealing with him not
For this sport but my profit. I hate Fehr.
And I hate that ‘twixt my balance sheets
He’ll interrupt my office. I know not that true
But I, for the mere suspicion of the tribunes
That I would see but one dollar lost to my players
The more for my purpose I will work on him.
Chipman, it is. A rich man. Let me see now,
To thirst his quenched beak for my own will
In double knavery? How? To turn his desires
After some time from wanton love of hockey
That he becomes familiar with greed and might.
He hath but a small frame and malleable will
To be suspected as one to find owners false
Fehr is free to find him less eager of dispute
Chipman sees the players honest but it is not so
They are comfortable and presumptuous by nature
They are going to play by my rules
If I had but a single penny I would but hell
And wait through’t, and if Chipman speaks
I will tell him thus
Scene Four (Inspired by Henry V)
New York, a street
Enter DONALD FEHR
Once more into the meetings, dear players, once more;
And make whole this wall with the owners’ cash.
(That one doesn’t work out so well because I’m having a tough time picturing Donald Fehr on a horse like Kenneth Branagh from the film adaptation.)