Saturday, October 6, 2012

Owners or Players?

The question has been constant for each and every hockey fan since a real threat of a lockout became apparent towards the end of the summer.

Who's side are you on: Owners or Players?

I couldn't choose. I assumed all along that a league that cancelled an entire season and players who sacrificed on average 20% of their career earnings only eight years ago wouldn't be so foolish as to miss games again. With "record revenues", a long-term U.S. television network deal, and plenty of buzz from another thrilling Stanley Cup playoff that culminated with a major market being crowned champions, I just didn't believe they could be so stupid. I thought a deal would get done. I thought a deal had to get done.

Did I think the owners initial offer that they unfathomably made public back in July was comically unreasonable? Absolutely. But I also assumed that with an average NHL player's salary sitting at $2.5 million, and the minimum at $550K, the NHLPA would comprehend how ridiculously well-compensated they are and be motivated to keep the gravy train rolling.

Even if the offer was a slap in the face (which again, it definitely was), it set the parameters for where the league wanted to go with the CBA and it was then up to the PA to get the best deal they could within those parameters. That's how these negotiations work, not just in hockey, but in all sports. In all business. The owners take the risk and therefore they have the ultimate say on how they will divide up their business. They set the framework and negotiations (eventually) progress from there.

But instead of common sense prevailing*, here we are days away from what should be the first night of the regular season, and we are somehow already guaranteed to miss games and might be on the verge of losing the whole season. Again.

*I along with 200,000 other hockey fans out there can mediate this stand-off in no time: gradual slide to 50/50 split of HRR; immediate increases to revenue sharing and re-distribution to lower-revenue teams; 8 year maximum length on contracts; same rules for free agency. Boom. Your welcome.

Instead of locking themselves in a room and chipping away at the gap that exists between the two sides, we've watched as months pass in between the swapping of proposals, and now weeks go by without any sort of meetings. The lack of urgency from either side is jarring.

I couldn't choose a side when the question was first asked months ago, and I'm no closer to an answer now. Mostly I'm just extremely frustrated with everyone involved.

I'm frustrated with the owners who have so little regard for the fans money and passion that they readily shut the game down every 8 or 10 years. I'm frustrated with the players who have copped out and gone overseas. I'm particularly frustrated with Mike Cammalleri for saying "you can go over there [to the KHL] and make millions and millions and millions of dollars to play hockey". Ummm, Mike, you do realize we can easily go online and figure out that you've earned about $26 million thus far in your NHL career, and have 2 more years at $7 million per on your contract. Would $40 million count as "millions and millions and millions of dollars to play hockey"? Because in my book it does.

And I'm frustrated with myself for already admitting that whenever this senseless lockout ends, I will be back going to games and watching them on television, just like nothing ever happened.

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