Yes, this circus has gone on long enough.
Here we are, on the verge of entering the FOURTH month of the lockout, and for every step forward in the negotiation process, someone does something to bring us back to ‘START’. Chutes and Ladders may have amused me when I was five, but forty years later it’s a game that gets old, fast. Both sides are suggesting that they have meetings soon, but as of yet neither side is willing to commit to a time and place.
I have been on the players side since day one. The players’ union have made a few interesting, and one bad move(see below), but overall a majority of the blame must be placed on the ownership. Don’t get me wrong, I believe commissioner Bettman deserves his own little slice of this bitter pie. We got players who are galvanized under Fehr, and an ownership that refuses to regard Fehr in any other context.(save for something that they might have stepped on the way to a negotiation session.)
Attempting to vilify your opponent at nearly any expense is a sign of poor integrity. The ownership refuses to deal with Fehr in the room. They event went so far to tell the players that the mere inclusion of their union head was a ‘deal breaker’. The NHL has been racking up those frequent flyer miles on Integrity Airlines. If I am not mistaken, with the current sale of the Phoenix Coyotes still in the air, the proxy vote goes to Gary Bettman. Gary Bettman, the man that brought a team to a low market area, and continued to fight for it, even as the club hemorrhaged dollars now holds that vote.
I’ll take Conflicts of Interest for $800, Alex.
Under the current by-laws, it only takes eight teams to overturn any CBA agreement. Bettman’s vote is an automatic. Factor in the teams that lose LESS money by NOT playing this year. Let’s not forget our own Jeremy Jacobs, who would be very happy having a two tier player pay system. (In essence, stars get star pay, and the rest can get used to the league minimum. Or, just go back to the 18th century and re-issue the concept of indentured servitude, whatever is more convenient.) Any CBA that isn’t totally pandering to the witless wonders who bet their franchises on their inability to stop themselves will get shot down.
So, where does this leave us?
Personally, I think Fehr’s first serious blunder of the negotiation occurred on Thursday. The owners were ready to deal. They had gotten close enough that both sides could have walked away with at least some level of personal dignity intact. In my opinion, Fehr attempted to score one or two more concessions with an ownership that had gone as far as they were willing to go(without upsetting the voting block of Jacobs, Bettman, and the self-destructive). The ownership, already loathing Fehr saw an opportunity to hand the NHLPA its first PR disaster of the campaign. In this regard, the ownership was successful.
The players however, still seem to have unilateral confidence in their director. As long as Fehr is still in the fight, the players will work hard to continue to negotiate to bring an end to the lockout. Now it’s time for the ownership to shut the puck up and make a deal to salvage the season.