I know most of you usually see my name attached to an Eagles column on this site. And, for those that read me, and enjoy my articles, I certainly appreciate it. But, as someone who does not live in Philadelphia, and being in North Texas, I certainly take a LOT of flak for being an Eagles fan, especially this season. But, no matter. I’m going to keep on rocking the Eagles colors wherever I go, just to stick it to some of these smug Cowboys fans around here.
This will be pretty much in line with what the NHL owners are doing to their own players. Now, before I get started on my rant, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. The players ARE NOT, in fact, on strike. They are being LOCKED OUT by ownership, which is two totally different things. But, to the “casual” sports fan, all he or she sees is this: a labor dispute over money (surprise, surprise), and they automatically assume it’s the players being greedy. But, as in the NFL and NBA lockouts of 2011, this one is all about a money grab from the owners.
Now, the owners will go out on record, and say that this system, which the NHL currently has in place, that gives the players 57 percent of all hockey related revenues, is just not sustainable. OK, one question: Why, then, did you sign it in the first place? If it’s not sustainable, owners, then that’s all on you. Do your homework a little better, and we won’t be in this boat.
But, as in all professional lockouts, the owners are going to make the players save the owners from themselves. The owners will all scream as one collective voice “We lost money last year”, or “We’ve been losing money for the past number of years”. OK, it’s a tired argument, one that’s been sung time and time again. And, as expected, the player’s side will always come back with the same answer: Yeah? Well, show us the books. Show us the proof behind your claim, and then we can talk business. But, as any owner will then say, the books are “privileged information”, and nobody may look into them and see where the money is going. So, therein lies the dilemma.
The NHL has watched it’s bigger brothers, the NBA and the NFL, go down this road, and come out with ownership taking more money away in the end. Now, the NHL owners want their share of that money. The problem is, that, unless you are in a “hockey” town, not too many people are really caring about this lockout, from a fans perspective, so, even if they decided to come back today, ownership would still be crying the blues, because, now, fans aren’t coming back to the arena. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Dallas. Decent hockey team, can boast of a Stanley Cup on its resume, a conference championship, too. But, with their football team in a playoff run, the Mavericks having all of their drama, and the college bowl season about to hit the area, nobody really cares if the Stars hit the ice or not. In a city where hockey is widely supported, such as Philadelphia, the fans are missing it a whole lot more. And, you can bet those cities north of the border are desperately wanting this to get through, so hockey can begin again.
But, until the owners come off their ridiculous demands, I don’t see it happening. We’ve all seen what a tough negotiator NHLPA Director Donald Fehr is, and I don’t see him backing down. Even federal mediators have been unable to bridge the gap between the two parties, which tells me this thing could go on for a while.
The whole sticking point is, of course, money. The players currently get, as I stated before, 57 percent of all hockey related revenue. For a league that generated a total of 3.2 billion dollars last season, the players claimed roughly 2.8 million of that money. The owners took a look at that and decided they wanted more, and that the only way they were going to get more, was to lock the players out until a new CBA could be reached. Again, a money grab by the owners. Nobody told the Penguins to go sign Sidney Crosby for 104 million over 12 years. Nobody told the Capitals to sign Alex Ovechkin for 9 million over 13 years. And, nobody told New Jersey to sign Ilya Kovalchuk for 11 million over 15 years. All of these owners and GM’s did this on their own. And, as a player, what are you going to do…….turn that kind of money down? Heck no!! So now, the owners see the mess they have created, and are doing everything in their power to renege on their committments, and get the players to save them from themselves.
This is very sad. Look at what terrible ownership did to Atlanta, as far as it being an NHL city. Atlanta, a major metropolitan hub of the South, is toxic as far as the NHL is concerned. Twice, the city has had a team, and twice, it has moved away. Of course, Atlanta cares more about college football than anything else, so, in the end, maybe it was a good move. Tampa Bay can point to a Stanley Cup banner in their building, as can the Carolina Hurricanes. But really, when one thinks of those cities, is professional hockey really the first thing you think of?
The solution is actually quite simple. Some of the owners would be, essentially, kicked out of the club. Contract the teams in Miami, Nashville, Columbus, and Phoenix. Nobody in those cities really cares about hockey either way. You disperse those players to other teams, and we can get a league that people will really talk about. Of course, one would have to be prudent as to how much they signed them for, but, as a whole, the league would cut teams that, they claim, lose money each year.
Or, as an alternative, find buyers to move those teams to Canada. If the last time a team moved is any indication, think of just what the relocation fees would be this time around? The league charged the Winnipeg group 60 million to relocate the former Atlanta Thrashers. I’m quite sure that, today, that cost would be much higher.
Or, of course, this could all come down to the class action lawsuit filed by the NHL against the NHLPA recently in anticipation of the player’s union decertifying. In it, there is a clause that reads, and I quote” Paragraph 14: In the event that the court does not grant the declarations described in Paragraphs 9 through 13, the NHL requests a declaration that if the NHLPA’s decertification or disclaimer were not deemed valid by the NLRB, and the collective bargaining relationship between parties were not otherwise to continue, all existing contracts between NHL players and teams (known as Standard Player Contracts, or SPC’s) would be void and unenforceable.”
Basically, the players, by decertifying as a union, would save the owners from themselves, and corporate greed would claim another victory.
With games already cancelled through the end of December, and no more talks between the two sides scheduled, it certainly won’t be a Merry Christmas for hockey fans wishing to see their team on the ice. I guess that’s what NHL 13, a room full of friends, and a marathon session of PS3 were made for.
Photo: Yahoo! Sports