The events from last night’s CBA negotiations were the equivalent of “Rookie Olympics” in college where we were told to put our heads on baseball bats, spin, shotgun a beer, sprint to another bat, do it again, then sprint back and tag in our next relay partner – there was lots of spin happening, and a realistic potential for puke.
For most of us non-lawyers – which is to say a huge, huge, majority of the people – we’re left without a clue of what to think. Hockey fans are being used as children would be in a messy divorce (leverage!), and being told by mommy that daddy doesn’t love us while hearing the same from the other side. I don’t really know what the fuck to believe anymore, and we’re all unfairly caught in the middle.
Representing Joe Average Guy who’s keeping an extremely close eye on the CBA negotiations (and consider, that’s probably exactly how must NHLers are, plus a little a more information), some thoughts on what’s happening between the NHL and NHLPA right now:
* The NHL, as Bruce Arthur noted, is making this about Fehr when in reality, they’ve already moved the players to a 50/50 split, convinced them that only a portion of their current contracts will be paid, and convinced them that contracts will now have limits. “They are pushing the boot down on the PA’s throat, which keeps trying to move under their feet,” Arthur writes. And this is all after making boatloads over the past few years. Yet because of the players refusal to cave on every single thing, they’ve entered full tantrum mode, and are trying to blame Fehr for the lockout persisting.
* I’m a fan of this point, which I wrote a bit about yesterday:
Just a reminder: owners are outraged and refusing to negotiate because players won’t agree to prevent owners from giving long term deals.
— 67Sound (@67sound) December 7, 2012
Owners are like alcoholics outraged at the liquor store for not denying them booze. Models of personal responsibility they are.
— 67Sound (@67sound) December 7, 2012
* Gary Bettman clearly wants to disembowel Donald Fehr. I think the most frustrating thing for Gary is that he seems to have met his match. I really feel like Bettman had a pre-set plan – use the early months of the season to bleed the players closer, get the season to around, say, now, then meet in the “new” middle. But Fehr saw it coming, and is telling his guys not to roll over, because “remember where the real middle is.”
These two guys are like atoms circling in opposite directions inside the Large Hadron Collider, and while last night’s explosion may have been just that – an explosion – we may learn something more now that the big moment happened. Was that kabuki theatre, or was that a show of genuine emotion last night? Are people frustrated because they’re compromising and want their way, or because people are being unreasonable?
* The fact for most of us is that the process is too complicated and we’re too uninformed to weigh in on it. We have no clue what’s going on behind closed doors. As I already noted, we have no idea if Bettman and Fehr’s antics last night were performance art or a true divide. The quotes reporters are getting are largely being fed to them as further spin, because the players are aware their words leak. I’m a hockey player and hockey fan who likes hockey – why on God’s green earth would Bettman and Fehr put on last night’s dance if not for negotiating purposes? They know they don’t need to keep us up on how the legal process is going, they know we just want our game back. They don’t give a shit – that Bettman display was for the Steve Fehrs and Ron Hainseys who were listening intently.
* Here are the pressers – first Fehr’s (everthing is bubblegum and unicorns!), which bleeds into his second presser at the 17 minute mark (doom! peril! destruction!), and then Bettman’s (Scanners head explosion gif dot com).
Gary Bettman looks like he could chew the face off someone on bath salts. Exhaaallle dude.
— Justin (@jtbourne) December 7, 2012
* Now the next talk is about decertification. My tweet exchange with @67sound last night, a lawyer, led me to believe that that it would mean one of a couple things: One, the threat works and the NHL comes back yay, or two, it could be a long drawn out process that results in a year or two without hockey before it returns and some teams get contracted and others relocated and holy shit that seems complicated.
What are we, as hockey fans, supposed to do with all this information? The owners are evil, sure. The players are handcuffed, yes. Kay. Now what.
Really, the lawyers are just doing their business (which does involve some lying and posturing, you’ll be shocked to learn), and last night was just another low on a roller coaster we don’t deserve to be on. Wanna know what I like?
The whole process is making fans numb, and as Ken Dryden wrote, I still firmly hold one belief: “There will be a season because there can’t not be a season.” It’ll start in January, it’ll be 48 games or so, and fan attendance will be shitty. Last night was a huge moment in the Great (read: awful) CBA Negotiations of 2012-13, I’m just not sure in which way I mean “huge,” yet. Almost no one knows much except that last night’s meltdown mattered.
In the meantime, fans just want to get through this, and be left out of the negotiating process. For a couple days there, it was nice think about the actual game again. Did you know Rick Nash is on the Rangers now?