It didn’t matter how many online petitions went around, how many in-person fan protests took place, or how many products were boycotted, the National Hockey League went into a lockout on Saturday, signalling the third work stoppage under the watch of commissioner Gary Bettman.
In the past two years, we’ve seen three of the country’s major sports head into labor disputes. The NFL emerged with nothing more than some summer camp time lost. Though the NBA lockout delayed some games, it managed to bounce back in a big way, and provided some very exciting basketball throughout the shortened season.
Then we have the NHL. Unlike the other leagues, the NHL is almost still fresh off a lockout from the 2004-2005 season. That lockout saw the owners work out a CBA that they favored a great deal. And it’s that CBA that has the owners crying foul once again, which is why we are where we are today.
I’ve seen the statistic from several users on Twitter that since 1992, the NHL has lost almost 1,700 games due to labor stoppages. The only league even close is Major League Baseball, and even they still fall over 500 behind the National Hockey League. Yet, no one on the owners side of things seems to mind.
I don’t want to get too far into the specifics. At this point, it seems futile and will only frustrate all of us further. And with the growth that the sport has seen in the past few years, it’s probably difficult to call the NHL the “worst run” sport of the big ones in North America. Perhaps we should call them the most foolish, or maybe the most hypocritical.
Regardless of how you feel about whether this is more on the owners or the players, there’s no doubt that the owners have handled this whole situation very poorly. Social media has played well into the hands of the players, and the owners’ collective acceptance of a lockout probably months ago has all of us very sour.
On the day of the NHL lockout, the league noted that they were always willing to talk. Yet, they refused to schedule any formal negotiations, essentially dismissing any talks as useless.
But more than anything, the most nonsensical part of this entire process has been the past few days. With the lockout set to take place on Saturday, teams were rushing to get some free agents signed, restricted or unrestricted, and get some guys signed to new extensions under the wire. If there are so many problems with the current CBA, why bother getting so many extensions done before this one expires? Especially when you’re going to ask these players to take pay cuts anyway?
Whether you want to call the NHL the worst run league in professional sports, the most hypocritical, or the most foolish, all would seem to fit the bill in one fashion or another. With the way they’ve handled things, on the owners side, it’s simply embarrassing. This was a lockout they had planned for a long time. And they’d probably be content to let this roll until December of next year.
The fact that the owners want the players to agree to a paycut before they’ll even return to the negotiating table tells you all you need to know about how they’re handling the situation. At this point, I think Democrats and Republicans could handle themselves better than these two.
Nobody will cry for the players losing salary, especially when they’re making the type of money they’re making. But you can’t help but put most of this on the owners. Not even so much Gary Bettman, but on the actual owners. This is going to continue for quite some time. I’d like to think we could see hockey in November or December, but the owners may enjoy this lockout a bit too much for that to happen so soon.
Which means, I, like so many, will be ready to kick back and enjoy some AHL hockey next month.