The NHLPA responds. Five players offering a few thoughts about the lockout. I could wax poetical for a couple of thousand words about the players and the owners. All I ask of you, the reader is to look at both statements issued. The statement given by the NHL is essentially “Yea, the lockout sucks, and we’re sorry. However, this is for the best, because we know you’ll come back to us.” The NHLPA’s ? “This sucks. We know this sucks for us, but look at you guys. If it wasn’t for you, we might not be doing this.” The second message offered by the players was this. “Teams are struggling. We tried to help those teams that were struggling by giving concession to the owners to build a better league.”
The league is struggling. Eighteen teams were in the red last season, most of them would have shifted to the black under the NHLPA plan. The revenues shifted to help the struggling teams would have cut the teams in the hole by half. Now what? I think we have to look at two horrible possibilities. One, that one or more teams will not survive a sustained lockout this time. Not all of the teams can be like Toronto, Montreal, or even Boston. There are teams that were hoping for the revenue to keep themselves going. (How they could vote 30-0 in favor of this lockout is mind boggling.) Second, and I hope I’m just tired and not looking at these numbers right… we could very well be looking at the beginning of the end of the National Hockey League as we know it.
Yes, I said it. We could very well see a fracturing of the league. The only question would be where the fault line would be. Would it be a north/south -”54′ 40 or fight” line(The US/Canadian border), or perhaps a line drawn at the Mississippi river. The power house financial teams are in Canada, and the US Eastern seaboard. Owner solidarity could quickly fracture with an extended lockout. What if we see an economic civil war break out in the league this season? Could owners like our own Jeremy Jacobs lead the prosperous teams out or expel the weaker teams. Mathematically, it makes sense. I understand. Contemplating it seriously is anathema to a hockey fan on a base and visceral level, but it would make financial sense.
My friends at work never offered me hockey as a Bettmanesque ‘take it or leave it’ sport. They allowed me to devlop my affection of this sport organically. Watching them talk hockey a few years ago was like hearing Farsi or Pashtu for the first time. Now, not only do I speak their language, every once in a while my opinion is consulted. I have developed a love affair for a sport that is falling apart in front of me. We’ve all had that break-up that made us think we’ll never fall in love again. For some of us, it was that first serious teenage relationship that went sour. In a funny and slightly sad way, I feel like I’m going through it all over again.
So now what Bettman, Jacobs and the rest of the Board of Governors? Do you realize all you have built could be irrevocably destroyed by your actions? No, you probably don’t even see it. All you probably see is a slightly larger pile of money. That is a damn shame gentlemen.