I know that when I’m under the gun at work, when there’s a big deadline looming, and even more specific – when there’s an important sporting event that I need to cover – I have never, ever thought that I should take a two week ‘break’ at a crucial time.
Can you even fathom the ridiculous mindset that the NHL and Gary Bettman can be living in, to even suggest a two week break, from what is looking like the end of the NHL as we know it?!
What kind of irrational, pompous decision could that be (I know, some of you will say it’s a negotiating tactic – but indulge me)? The only thing that the NHL and NHLPA should be doing is checking into a budget motel – void of all the five-star crap that both sides are used to – and not leaving the negotiating table until a deal is done to save this season. There should be no steak dinner, no expensive wine, no catered sushi lunch – cold pizza and lousy coffee is all that these two groups deserve now. A dingy, stuffy motel boardroom, and zero luxuries. And, a whole lot of intense negotiation to save a game that both sides say the ‘love.’
So, it doesn’t really matter if the NHLPA accepts the proposed break or not. The fact that it was suggested by the commissioner, shows just how interested the league is in solving this mess.
Make no mistake about it folks – I have spoke with several sources in both Canada and the United States this week, and they all say that we are on the verge of a full-scale meltdown – nuclear winter. The owners look poised and determined to break the union yet again, and the Players Association have dug in their heels – hoping to vanquish their mortal enemy in Bettman once and for all.
Tyler Seguin is lighting up the Swiss League, Evgeni Malkin is wowing crowds in the KHL. Paul Bissonnette is a goal-a-game player in the UK Elite League. Hockey players are marching on and playing in other leagues all over the world. Life goes on. Fans are forgetting the NHL – and even the die-hards are crying foul. People are vowing that they will not be back – the game is teetering on a sharp edge. An edge that could kill the game for casual fans globally.
The owners have lost the plot, and Donald Fehr is a much tougher foe than Bettman has ever had to box. These owners are the ones who approved the crazy front-loaded, 15 year player deals, this is the league that found ways around its own coveted salary cap. And now this commissioner, and his league want the players to pay for those dodgy deals and moves. Fehr and his union are looking to end Bettman, end his tyranny and perceived dis-respect of the players. How does it all play out?
Well if you are the NHL commissioner you suggest a two week break – a ‘moratorium’ on talks! Yup, you can see how this has gotten so far. That kind of altered reality is the stuff of lunacy. Whether you work in a factory, in retail, or the media, let’s all tell our boss and colleagues that we need a two week break at a crucial time in whatever our business is – lets pledge to try that way of working and see where it gets us!
I’ll tell you where it gets us – it will get us warned, blacklisted, and maybe even dismissed from our position. Because as anyone who has a job knows, there are times that you do not miss a day in the office – busy times, crucial times for any business.
Apparently this is not a crucial time in the NHL business. Apparently this is a time for big words like ‘moratorium.’ Apparently this is a time for Gary Bettman to throw his toys out of the cradle. It is ridiculous – and sadly it could be one of the last moves in what has become a joke in the professional sporting world. The NHL – with three work stoppages in 20 years – needs a break. Clearly, Gary and the owners have done everything they could to get a deal done (at least that’s the mantra that they are sticking to). So, enjoy the next 14 days – it may be the final two weeks before the plug is pulled.
It may be the last bone-headed decision that this commissioner makes. It may mean another lost season. But, even if a deal is reached, and a shortened campaign arranged and played, this past few months has changed the league and the union. There will be a HUGE asterisk next to this season either way.
And, for many that asterisk will mean the year that the NHL ceased to become important on their sporting landscape. The year they stopped caring, the year they stopped watching, the year they stopped contributing dollars to the NHL bottom line.
We can all remain optimistic. We can hope that this is a clever decoy by the NHL. That there is no break, but actually two weeks of covert meetings away from the media glare! We can hope for that. But honestly folks, is it just me, or does this feel like the end is frighteningly near?
You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce