The NHL has announced with much regret that another block of regular season games will be taken off the schedule. The NHL has cancelled all games up to December 30th. This is the latest in a series of travesties generated by a group of owners who have(for the most part) driven their clubs into the red, and have made a sincere effort to remove the premier professional hockey league in North America off the map.
Once again, NHL leadership insists that it is doing its best to make a deal. “Trying to set up something for this week, but nothing finalized yet,” NHL’s #2 man Daly said in regards to resumption of the negotiating process. As the owners get another goal scored on them in the PR war, perhaps maybe some of the owners are willing to join the Toronto-Chicago-Montreal-Ranger power block that is trying to force the issue to start the season.
The warring factions had two days of positive talks last Tuesday and Wednesday in New York City that almost broke the deadlock and restored hockey. Sadly, things went awry and the negotiations reached an impasse Thursday evening. ‘Impasse’ is one way of putting it. ‘Blizzard induced train wreck’ might be slightly more honest. They proved their sincerity by bringing in ‘moderates’ to the negotiation sessions last week. It seems a pity the ‘moderates’ weren’t an informed faction.
“There are a half-dozen or more players who knew exactly where we were and could detail every aspect of where we were at,” Kevin Westgarth[forward LA Kings] said. “The league brought in four owners to join Jeremy Jacobs of Boston and Murray Edwards of Calgary in the negotiations.”It became obvious that the guys they brought in had nowhere near a complete understanding of what the proposals were and where we were in the negotiations,” Westgarth said. “I thought it was great that Ron Burkle, Larry Tanenbaum, Mark Chipman and Jeff Vinik got involved — clearly they’re passionate and care about the game — but it shows how tightly controlled the league is.”
Kevin Westgarth has been emerging as one of the reliable players in the negotiating process. Westgarth, who is the LA Kings version of Shawn Thornton would seem a tad incongruous as a negotiator. He does possess a degree in psychology from Princeton, and has been as tenacious in the board room as he has been on the ice. Westgarth knows what he is fighting for. His contract last year earned him around $525,000(US) last year. He’s not uncomfortable, but he’s certainly not one of the mega-stars of the NHL(yet).
As more people discuss the turn of events that led to the latest labor relations disaster, it is becoming clear that the talks broke down last week over the owners’ refusal to bargain if Donald Fehr was in the room. “Part of their tactics is to demonize Don, we’ve seen it before.” Westgarth said. For the hockey history buffs amongst us, you may remember that the CBA agreement that ended the season killing 2004-5 season was not signed by the union’s executive director at the time. Bob Goodenow(NHLPA’s director at that time) wasn’t a part of the final negotiations that brought NHL hockey back to the ice.
“I think it would be unreasonable to restrict who is in the room, but that’s a decision for a great number of players to make,” offered Westgarth on the matter of further excluding Don Fehr from the next round of negotiations. Well get cracking owners. This mess is on you, and while I’ll hate it. I can start wearing a ‘P’ Bruin jersey for awhile.