The Value Question

I’ve been thinking about what I am going to do with the NHL and hockey in general when the current lockout ends.  Will I be back?  Will I stay home and watch games?  What will my reaction be?  So far, I don’t know.  I just know how I feel now.  

I’m a hockey fan, through and through.  I love the sport, and now that I’m on an actual (low level rec league) team, I love playing it more and more.  I am less obsessed about it than I was five or six years ago, but it isn’t the lockout making that happen, that’s just life and moving on.  I don’t care about any other sport, just hockey.  

I know how I feel now.  I skip over most of the hockey blog posts in my RSS reader, because they say the same thing.  No news is no news.  People are mad, they aren’t shy of expressing it, and I don’t want to keep feeding my own anger and disappointment in the NHL any more than I already have.  

The lockout started on September 15th, with plenty of time before to watch the slow lurch towards nothing that we have now.  The only moments of joy we have seen from the process has been the rise to stardom of the NHL Podium (I think it has earned a proper name, don’t you?).  

And lets face it, that should be the point of being a hockey fan: the joy from watching the games, of being included in the celebrations, of the fun of the sport.  If you are in it for the anger, then this is your shining moment of glory.  I watch hockey for the fun and excitement, not to learn about salary caps and make whole and other business that may or may not be of consequence.  

I’m not ignorant to the fact that money makes the puck go in the net.  It always will, and there is little to be done about it.  Even at my pitiful level of play, money drives what you can and can not do.  My season, 22 games plus two guaranteed playoff games cost me $500.  That doesn’t include skate sharpening, any new equipment needed (a new helmet set me back $129, due to a slight concussion earned at stick and puck time (which is $10 a session)), and I might be taking a hockey 101 class which will set me back around $150.  Money drives hockey.  It isn’t the “pick up the skates and head down to the frozen pond” of the early last century.  Zombonis, freezing the ice, ice time, everything costs money, and is driven by it.  

The NHL is a business and it’s driven by money on a scale that I can’t really comprehend, but does not understanding, nor wanting to, make me a bad fan?  I like to be well informed, but I prefer my knowledge and information be about hockey, not capology (which is one letter added to apology) and contract issues.  And certainly not tabloid fodder like making phone calls on stacks of cash (which I thought was funny) or who is dating who or any of the slow news day TMZ garbage we see touted as a hockey story.  

Right now, the information is all about bad business decisions.  It isn’t about hockey.  It’s about who is more angry at the time, and who we should or should not be blaming.  Everything is geared away from the sport of hockey.  According to NHL.com, there were 894 players to take the ice in the NHL last season (and if this is wrong, please correct me in the comments).  There are more than 585,000 members of USA Hockey alone (who is happy to post it’s financials online, unlike certain for profit leagues we could mention).  But for some reason, I’m supposed to care and follow what’s happening in the NHL right now?

No thanks.  It’s just making me more bitter and sad.  It isn’t enhancing my life in the way that hockey should.  It isn’t making me happy in the way the sport can and should.  And it doesn’t feel like it’s adding any value to my life in the way actually playing hockey does.  The big question is, will it do so once the season starts again?  I don’t think I will know until then.

My hockey gear is lying on the floor waiting to go back in it’s bag after a hard skate the other day.  I got danced around by two young players who had wheels and skills, and I worked hard to keep up and get the few good plays in that I could.  I was invited onto a team for the summer that is three levels up from the one I am on now, which would destroy me (I’m 40, out of shape, and an ex-smoker).  It was flattering.  The hockey was hard but fun.  That’s the way it should be.  The value should be obvious.  This lockout doesn’t provide me any value.  

NHL Cliff

“Lines of communication remain open.”

That was the first thing I heard from my radio this morning.  Sound familiar, hockey fans?  Knowing my online life, you could assume that I was listening to sports radio, but no (in fact, for the record, I don’t listen to sports radio – not enough hockey).  This line came from NPR, and wasn’t referring to the NHL Lockout.  It was about the so-called Fiscal Cliff (or as I like to call it, the Financularity).

You would be forgiven for thinking it was about the ongoing “negotiations” and the slow creep towards the next CBA.  The two have plenty in common, and while the metaphors break down as soon as you get past the political party definitions, the reality is they share a lot of attributes.

  • Each side seems close, and agrees what should be done to resolve the issues.  Neither side wants to budge.  Movement will happen, but how much each side is willing to go is the question.
  • Both are totally solvable.  The details are what’s holding things up.
  • The issue more important to each side is who saves the most face.
  • Both sides demonize each other, which seems more important to them than actually resolving the issues at hand.
  • This only hurts the ones they propose to love, be it the fans or the American people.

Think of the last few months as the debt-ceiling crisis of last year.  While everyone bickered before the inevitable, faith was lost in the US and it’s leaders, which resulted in a downgrading of the United States’ credit rating.  Compare that to the faith being lost in the NHL by sponsors and fans (Molson – Coors and Boston Pizza don’t write public letters to the NHL expressing their concerns when things are going well).

Now we sit at the cliff.  With games cancelled until the end of the year, on or two more shuffle-steps towards the edge is all it’s going to take to shove this thing over.  Don’t be fooled.  As they said in Battlestar Galactica, “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”

Stay frosty.

Imminent Road Trip

I’m looking to take a hockey road trip from January 1st to the 7th. Any suggestions? I’m starting in Denver, and probably heading east, but right now, I have no solid plans. I want to go places I haven’t been yet, so Omaha is on the radar. Where do I need to go?

Gary Bettman’s Original Media Update

In an amazing coincidence, Jerseys and Hockey Love has obtained a copy of the original speech Gary Bettman was going to address the media with, before opting for the shortened version delivered.  As a public service, we reprint it in it’s entirety. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the media, Damien – 

The Board of Governors meeting has just concluded, and I wanted to make a brief statement about the negotiations between the owners and players that was held earlier.

As there was more progress and optimism generated in one meeting that excluded myself and Donald Fehr than in all the meetings attended by the two of us, I don’t wish to make any comments out of respect for the process.  This may be considered the first respectful thing I have done since the process began, but that is not for me to say.  I do want to update you on a few other things surrounding the CBA negotiations.

The NHL PR department is busy preparing a media campaign for a shortened NHL season.  They are hard at work adapting the 2013-14 season campaign, as the cancelled season we had expected since last June may come into being.  We are also preparing an invoice for these modifications to be sent to the NHLPA and Molson Coors.  We don’t anticipate this being an impediment to our ongoing talks, which seem to be going well.  I wouldn’t know, I’m not there.

We are also announcing the following fines: Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle will each be fined $100,000 for being in contact with an NHL player during an ongoing lockout, John Davidson of the Columbus Blue Jackets will be fined $50,000 for being in contact with the media in direct violation of rules allowing any member of the Blue Jackets from saying anything to the media, and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch will be fined $2,500 for watching the movie Contact, which was just a horrible film.  Am I right? Trust me, he can afford it.

With all the possible progress made yesterday – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there – I want to remind the media not to become overly optimistic with the possibility of hockey being played before the start of the next season.  There are no games scheduled to be played as of yet, and our schedule maker is still on vacation, and we don’t wish to bug him while visiting the Cayman Islands.  There is plenty of work to do, and with an office staff that is working only four days a week for 80% of their paycheck while I still get the entirety of my salary, there is only so much the NHL is able to do in a short span of time.

On a final note, I wish to remind the media that I will still be paid my full contract no matter what happens after this CBA is signed.

That’s all for now.  Thank you for attending this media update, sponsored by Bridgestone Tires, the only sponsor still talking to us.

How to End Lockouts Forever

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The US Government is staring down a self-imposed financial hellhole called the fiscal cliff. Jon Stewart described it as launching an asteroid at yourself so you have to blow it up, just so you will finally have to learn how to destroy asteroids.

I personally advocate the NHL launching asteroids at themselves. Figuratively, of course. How would the NHL get their collective crap together long enough to even launch a rocket into space? I bet Tim Thomas could, but that would just be… never mind.

Holding a gun to your own head is a great way to get something you claim to care about done. The NHL wouldn’t shoot themselves in a vital organ by their own choice, but they might pull a Plaxico, or shoot their pinky toe off. They are already doing it, but they don’t see it like that.

Deadlines and penalties, people. That is the way of the future. Rather than outlandish voting percentages and muzzling the people who could get a deal done, the NHL should be punching themselves in their own junk, until they feel it the pain deep in the taint of their own wallets. Yes, you heard me.

Here are a few things I suggest to the NHL, in order to get a new CBA signed every time:

Start CBA negotiations as soon as the playoffs start

Players are no longer getting a paycheck from the league, so it’s actually pretty practical. But the more important part is that hockey will still be going on, and they can’t ignore what would be missing. Yes, it would be a distraction to the players who are playing, but it also has it’s upsides. Imagine that the bad teams, the ones with players outside the playoffs, were the ones able to attend negotiations. Imagine that Crosby and Malkin and the Red Wings and the Bruins and Jacobs and Leonsis were all too busy to hammer out a new CBA. All the teams making money off the playoffs are too busy to shape the talks. What would that deal look like?

Lost games equals lost pay for the NHL Officers

If the players aren’t getting paid, neither should the commissioner, his assistants, and anyone with an office at the NHL. Everyone should feel the pain. Every salary is split into 100 parts. One part is lost for every game lost. You lose the entire season, you only get 18% of your salary. This only applies to negotiation-level executives. Cap losses of non-negotiating or lower level executives at 50-75%. They should feel enough pain to put the pressure on the negotiating execs.

CBA terms limited to five years

A lockout every seven to eight years is bad enough. Limit a CBA to five years, and no one would invest in the NHL if they kept locking out at the end of every agreement. Sponsors would run for the door. Give the league incentive to bargain. Also, seven or eight years means you have to bring the hammer to every renegotiation. Five years is very survivable with a bad deal. It doesn’t become an all or nothing negotiation.

One year extensions of the CBA after it expires

If the owners or players don’t like how a CBA turned out, they have to negotiate a new one, or they are stuck with the old one.

Every new proposal is delivered with a new puppy

Puppies are cute, right? They bring good feelings, but then they poop on everything. They are rambunctious, they eat homework, and they smell funny if your don’t bathe them. If you want a new proposal from the other side, you get a new puppy. And it’s yours to take care of. Each puppy will be blogged about, and the fans can keep track of how the puppies are doing. This is accountability. Imagine being the NHL asking for new proposal after new proposal. How many new puppies are you going to have before you are willing to negotiate with what is currently on the table? Too many puppies isn’t just a song from Primus. It can be a real issue.

Unleash the 800 pound gorilla in the room

I keep hearing about this gorilla of varying weight and size. Perhaps it’s time to turn it loose. Think about what that negotiation would look like. Film it and put it out on DVD.

Hold hands during the negotiations

Partners? I’ll show you partners.

Broadcast the CBA negotiations

Let’s go CSPAN on this. It’s hard enough to understand what is going on with the various proposals and all the negotiations. Each side makes it sound like the other party doesn’t want to make a deal. Let’s stop with the manipulation of the press in order to win the PR war and make the entire thing available. Let the fans decide who is really on the side of the sport, rather than the spin doctors.

I think if you tried any of these things, you would hardly be worse off from where we are now.

Come on NHL. Let’s get a deal done. I miss you, baby, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

First Time Wreck: Game 7 – It Gets Worse / Don’t Want To Talk About It

 This is First Time Wreck, talking about my first rec league and first team.  I play at the Ice Ranch in the RMHL in Denver, CO.  You can find our league here, and our team stats here. I wear number 5, even though the stats list me as 84 (and now 35).  I don’t know why.

(What happened to game six? I missed it due to work. I was going to write about that, but we have moved on to game seven, so we are letting game six go.) 

 

I don’t want to talk about game seven.  I should talk about it, because that’s what bloggers are supposed to do, bare their souls and all that.  But this game, I don’t want to talk about.  I have never felt this upset after playing hockey.  I have never been this angry and disappointed after a hockey game.  I have never wanted to give up.  

We lost 2-1, which isn’t an awful score.  I wouldn’t even mind losing, were it a game that I felt I came away from having fun.  But I didn’t have fun tonight, despite my initial intentions.  And it had less to do with the play on the ice than with other factors.  

A few of the highlights:

- Both goals against us came off my stick.  The first deflected off my stick right to an attacker in front of our net.  The second one deflected directly off my stick and into our net.  So yeah, not a good night for me on defense.

- I blocked – unintentionally – a slap shot with the boney part of my ankle.  It hurts.  I’m limping.

- I got into it with one of our teammates.  The guy from game 4.  It got ugly.  It did not get physical, but words were said.  Loud, angry words.  We had to be separated.  

- Things got pretty chippy out there.  And hey, when you have a trainer and a good medical staff, and insurance, and don’t have to be at your day job tomorrow, and get paid to play rather than pay for the privilege of playing, by all means, get chippy.  But this is rec league hockey.  I don’t want to separate my shoulder because you want to “play hard” or “play the right way.”  

- I was OK on defense, but my few shots on goal went wide, including the last shot of the game, with five seconds left.  A wide hard shot that went around the boards and out of the zone.  So yes, the last shot, the one that could have tied it up on, was off my stick and wide.  So that felt AWESOME. :-/

If it isn’t obvious, it’s that third point that I don’t want to get into.  I would be biased towards my side, no matter how hard I tried not to be.  I would color things with my own involved perspective, and that isn’t fair.  What I will say about it is that I lost my cool, and I shouldn’t have.  I apologized to my teammates, and they were good about it.  But I was as much a problem as the guy I got into it with, and I made things uncomfortable and less fun as much as him.  I had my part in it, and I am not proud of it.

Words were going to be said at some point.  This issue wasn’t going to go away on it’s own.  And it’s probably a good thing that it happened now, rather than later.  Still, I’m not proud of myself in that moment.  I’m not pleased that I wasn’t able to blow him off, or relax a little.  I can be nice to our opponents, and even after a fight for the puck in front of our goalie, I can turn to the guy afterwards and say “good battle.”  It happened tonight.

But my own teammate getting under my skin doesn’t feel right.  And even after telling myself that I was just going to have fun tonight, I didn’t.  Part of it was the stress of being on defense (which I know I’m going to write about) and part of it was this guy.  And then when things escalated, it didn’t get any better.  

I want to have fun.  I didn’t pay this much money to be on the ice and not have fun.  That doesn’t mean I have to get my way or be catered to.  It doesn’t mean we have to win every game, or even most of them.  But it does mean that if something is ruining things for me, something needs to change.  And if that change needs to be me, so be it.  If there is something I need to figure out for myself, then that’s what I need to do.

When the NHL returns, and the fans weigh the value of going back, the only thing that is going to be worth going back for is the game.  And the game should be fun, to watch, to write about, and especially to play.  And if it’s not fun to play, and you aren’t making a ton of money doing it, what’s the point?  It’s time to make it work. 

(after our game, I went to Denver University to watch Ryan Bolding of Hockey on the Rocks play in one of his many rec leagues (ok, he only plays in two, but still…) and it was great to see how much fun they seemed to be having.  I prefer that.)

Have any perspective on this?  Comments are open.  Just be nice. 

First Time Wreck: Game 5 – It Gets Better

This is First Time Wreck, talking about my first rec league and first team.  I play at the Ice Ranch in the RMHL in Denver, CO.  You can find our league here, and our team stats here. I wear number 5, even though the stats list me as 84 (and now 35).  I don’t know why.

(This is about game five, which we played October 30th, 2012)

“How do you feel about playing right-wing,” my goalie asked.

“I’d feel better playing defense.” He gave me a look.

I would be offended if we hadn’t talked about this last week, or if I were actually good at playing D. But after the last game, I said I would like to try a game up front, and he agreed (he agreed I should go up front, not that I was horrible at D). The last game was the game I was pissed off about. My play wasn’t awful, but my attitude coming out of it was awful. I had no fun, and being on D didn’t help.

For this game, we were starting with a short bench. It wasn’t going to last, but we were going to be short for the first period. Four or five of our guys play on another team, one level up from this one, and there was a conflict of scheduling. They were at the other rink, our normal rink, several miles away, and they were going to be late. That included our captain, and three or four of our better players. We started the game with a three-man rotation on D, and about seven forwards, rotating them out instead of worrying about full lines. Things would change eventually.

So for the better part of the first period, I played defense. And I should write about playing D at some point, because there is something to be said about that first time experience as a defenseman. It isn’t way you think it’s going to be.

Here’s what I remember about playing D that game: A goal went in while I was on the ice, defecting off my stick to the front of the net before one of their players knocked it in. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

But I also came to the rink with a different attitude. After the last game, I decided that I was out there to have fun (which I was before, but I let someone ruin it for me), not to beat myself up or let someone else beat me up for my play. And even if I was on D, I was going to have fun. So even though I was ready to move up to a wing, I was OK with where I was. It also helped that the guy who got under my skin was part of that late conglomerate. In other words, I could do what I was doing in relative peace (even if what I was doing wasn’t perfect).

For the second and third period, I moved up to left-wing, or whatever wing my other winger wasn’t playing at the time. We had a tendency to switch a lot, but started with the good intentions of staying on our own side. I would love to attribute this to being aware of the ice, the play, and being forwards rather than wingers (f1, f2 and f3, rather than center, left and right), but this is rec league at its lowest. We were just doing what we could to keep up.

Since our captain wasn’t there to start the game, and we switched players up partway through the game, we didn’t have set lines, and just kept an eye out for who we followed on the ice. I don’t know if that’s how it usually works in rec league, but it was working for us. That let me play with all three centers, and all three right wingers. Perhaps if I were a better player, I would have more awareness of who was on the ice with me, and what their strengths were, but all I really knew was who was the center was, and which way we were skating.

It took a few shifts for things to start clicking, but they did click. I got the puck along the left boards, skated into the zone, and put a nice backhand pass on the stick of my center, who was driving the net. He took a shot that bounced to my stick, and I had a wide open net…. which I missed completely. I blame the stick wax that I decided to try for the second time ever, and will never use again. Was it the fault of the wax? I want to think so. I will blame the wax. Yeah, the wax.

I got a few more shots on net, a few more rushes, and helped kill of a penalty. Things were going well. And then it happened.

I don’t know how the puck found it’s way to my stick, but I remember it was in the slot just above the circles, right side. I had a lane to the net, and I was going to shoot, damn it. I took a shot, and the goalie closed his five hole. The puck disappeared into his pads, and the ref blew the play dead….

And pointed at the net. It took me a second, but it finally dawned on me. I scored a goal. I scored my first goal in this league.

First Puck

So I did what everyone does when they score their first goal: I got the puck. I skated up to the ref and asked for it. When I told him it was my first goal, he smiled and congratulated me. You only get one first goal, you might as well be proud of it. And I don’t have to act like I’ve been there before, because I hadn’t.

It’s meaningless, right?  That first goal, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. We made the playoffs before the first puck dropped on the season. We paid our money, we are guaranteed a slot. One goal, one game in 22, one shift, none of it really matters. We aren’t playing for the Stanley Cup. We aren’t playing for money. We play because we want to, because we love the game. We paid a lot for the privilege, so we might as well take everything we can from it. Every moment it feels good, we should cherish. We should be happy for what we can get.

Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever. In those small accomplishments and little personal victories, the glory is all internal. And you have to recognize it and hold on to it. It’s a big world out there, and no one is going to care about you as much as you care about you. So you had better care while you can. And if no one else knows why you are smiling, that’s OK. The important part is that you are smiling in the first place.

First Time Wreck: Game 4 Frustration

This is First Time Wreck, talking about my first rec league and first team.  I play at the Ice Ranch in the RMHL in Denver, CO.  You can find our league here, and our team stats here. I wear number 5, even though the stats list me as 84.  I don’t know why.

(I should have started this game one, and wrote some things I didn’t publish about game three.  Those might come up.  You might as well read on.  It’s not like there’s NHL hockey to talk about.)

Wreck League 1

That’s me in the middle (red)

Last night was game four, and it was my most frustrating game yet.  But let’s back up a bit.

I already knew I would be late to the game.  I had to work in downtown Denver until five, and the puck dropped at 5:25 pm.  The rink is 28 minutes from work.  My girlfriend had the car idling at the loading dock, ready to make our escape.  Thanks to warm ups, we got to the rink just as the game started.  

Normally, it would take another ten minutes to rush putting on my pads and skates, but since I wasn’t driving, I started suiting up in the car.  I hope other drivers saw what was going on, and I was someone’s interesting story.  I don’t know what I would have thought had I seen what I was doing in another car. 

My pre-game ritual has been to get to the rink early, listen to my hockey playlist (power jam!) on the drive down, and spend some time prepping for the game.  I get my pads and skates on slowly and spend some time stretching and psyching myself up.  

This time, I talked to my girlfriend instead of listening to music, while struggling to get my shoulder pads on without interfering with her driving.  When I got to the rink, I saw how short the bench was: two lines of forwards and three defensemen.  So far, I’ve been playing defense, and it’s been working out OK, for a first timer.  I know when I screw up, but this is lower level hockey (lowest level in the league), so I screw up quite a bit.  

(Also, I’m fairly hard on myself.  I remember my mistakes well before my accomplishments.  My version of how much I screw up might be different than other people’s.)

I hustled to the empty (save for emptied hockey bags) locker room, and laced up my skates.  Through the door, I could hear every stoppage in play, and each one felt like time I was wasting.  I wanted out there.  As soon as my skates were on, I got to an entrance to the rink and waited.

The time between whistles when you are ready to step on the ice are the longest.  Getting caught in your end on a long change doesn’t seem that long.  Waiting for the zamboni to finish it’s scrape of the ice before you step out for warmups is an eternity.  Standing outside the rink that is soon to be yours, waiting for your chance to play, time stands still.  You live a lifetime in that stretch.

Notice what didn’t happen before the game.  There wasn’t any stretching.  There was no warmup.  There wasn’t any moment with the team before.  I didn’t check the board to see what position anyone was playing (and I don’t know enough names for that to really help, but it’s nice to fake it sometimes).  I knew I was playing D, and that’s it.  There was no time for anything else.  The standard path to hockey was interrupted.  It was strange.

I stepped on the ice and was told who my defensive partner was, and stayed out.  I dropped my extra stick and water bottle off at the bench, and stayed out for my first shift.  Game on, right away.  

If you were to ask what was going through my mind at the time, I couldn’t tell you.  I know it wasn’t hockey.  I don’t remember thinking anything other than cursing, which I do in my mind a lot during the game.  It took a while to get into the game.  I wasn’t feeling it, and I wanted to feel it.  It didn’t feel like game day, and I didn’t feel ready.  I don’t know what feeling ready is supposed to feel like, but I know I wasn’t there.  I knew who I was playing with, I knew where to go (most of the time), but I didn’t feel into it.

The other frustration was with my defensive partner for the first half of the game.  Whenever we were on the bench, he would start telling me what I was doing wrong.  He was probably trying to direct me more and help, but what I was feeling at the time was someone who was constantly complaining either to or about me.  I was close to telling him to shut the front door.  I already wasn’t feeling into the game, and this wasn’t helping. 

I know how I felt about it at the time, but looking back at it, I can gain a little perspective. I believe he thought he was being helpful.  He is also a hockey parent, and his kids could skate circles around me.  At the time, I couldn’t see any of that.  All I wanted him to do was shut up and let me skate.  

Being new to the team, I feel like I should be the one to shut up and skate.  I feel like that’s my job right now, and figure out where I fit.  This guy has been around the team for a while, and in the hierarchy of teams, seniority rules.  I don’t think it’s my place to tell him to give it a break.  In the third period, I didn’t have to, as we shuffled defensive pairings (more on that some other time) and I wound up with our team captain.  By then, I had turned sour and angry.  I wasn’t having any fun, and any mistake I made was amplified in my mind.  Any moment out of position made me more mad at myself.  It pushed my energy up, but it didn’t help at all.  I didn’t believe in myself on the ice, and I started trying to do too much.  

One of those moments of trying to do too much led to the game tying goal for the opposition.  I was between the face-off circles in the slot, and the puck made it’s way to the point.  No one was pressuring the defense, so I stepped up, which was a big mistake.  The puck got past me, and I turned around in time to see we were outmanned in front of the net, and I was too far away to be useful.  Then the puck went in.  I felt like giving up at that point.  The goal wasn’t entirely my fault, but it seemed like it at the time.  Goals against are rarely the fault of only one person, but in the moment, you only see what you did wrong.  

There is no four on four OT in this league, as there is limited ice time.  OT goes directly to the shootout.  I wanted to be in the shootout.  I wanted to take a shot, and make up for my previous errors.  I wanted to redeem myself.  

The thing is, the only person I needed to redeem myself to was myself, and I think I was too far gone for it to matter at that point.  I was angry, and I wanted to go out there, and I didn’t want to go out there.  I wanted to win the game, and I didn’t want to be a non-factor.  This, as always, leads to the classic phrase, squeezing the stick to hard.  There’s a reason it’s a cliche. 

My chance came third on the shootout.  I decided to go backhand, starting to my right, cut left and shoot.  The goalie got just enough on it to tip it past the net by one or two inches.  All I could do was put my head down and skate to the bench.  I didn’t even look at anyone.  I was done.

We lost in the shootout after going seven or eight deep.  The locker room didn’t feel like it had after any of the other games, not even the losses.  It felt sour all around.  It felt like a loss that stung.  I know I felt stung.  

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t have any fun playing hockey, and that might have been a first.  Hockey can lift me out of a funk, it can feel like an accomplishment just being able to keep up, and even when things go sour, I feel like I am lucky to be out there.  It didn’t feel that way this game.

It isn’t about winning the game.  It wasn’t about things not going my way.  It was about how I played the game.  And I wasn’t playing the game the way I wanted to. It barely felt like a game.  But there’s always the next one, a week and a half away.

Rampage lost 3-2 in the shootout to Half Nuts.  Our record is 1-2-1 for three points.

I Don’t Want to Talk About It

Locked Out!

Locked Out!

There are three kinds of hockey we can talk about: Hockey I can see, hockey I can’t see, and the lockout, which is to say, no hockey at all.  And I want to talk about hockey.

Of course I don’t like the lockout, but what really annoys me is that we’ve heard and read everything about this lockout from the last one.  There is hardly anything original being published, only the names and places change.  We have virtually the same issues  (even the salary cap is being challenged in the media) and virtually the same complaints from the fans, media, players and owners about each other.  Nothing new under the sun.

What does that leave?  There are the minors, and the only minor leagues I’m projected to see this season are the Denver Cutthroats, maybe the Colorado Eagles, and one or two minor league games across the country (San Francisco Bull, I’m looking at you).  Someone recently told me that their favorite posts of mine were the travel posts, when I took in a game in a minor league or junior city (like Johnstown, PA (part 1 and part 2) or recent trips to Odessa, TX and Sioux Falls, SD) or took a road trip through several cities (like my west coast hockey tour).  Now that I’m home in Denver, my travel is cut way back.

There is the hockey I can’t see, which is all the minor league hockey I love that I can only read reports of, just like you.    Fairly pointless, other than to bemoan the lack of hockey I get to see, and update you on stats and reports I am not going to have any more insight than anyone else reading the same thing as me.  So yeah, not going to do that.

The other hockey I can talk about is rec league hockey, and you don’t care about that.  I care, only because I started on my first rec league team this year.  I will say that now, I have 2 PIM (for tripping), which ties me for the lead on my team, and my first official stat ever. I am a goon.  I’m sure this will pop up from time to time.

So what to do?  Keep talking about a lockout that has no end in sight?  I don’t want to do that, but I want to talk about something hockey related.  I want to podcast about hockey as well (and I haven’t really wanted to for a while).

I’m at a loss.  More than anything, I’m going to miss going to minor league games around the country.  The travel is expensive, and I don’t have the discretionary money I used to for hotels, food and gas (and tickets).  If I could, I would go all over the country watching all levels of hockey, and report back to you.  I would take you on a hockey tour of the nation.  For now, I might catch up on some of the games I didn’t post about when I saw them.  There are a few from the West Coast Hockey Tour that never made it to the blog (due to time constraints, we jump ahead in the action).

What do you want to talk about?  The CBA is boring, and every NHL meeting leads to dashed hopes. It’s too frustrating.  So I ask, what should we do here?  What are you still interested in?

The More Things Change

Lockedout1

Locked Out!

Going into the latest CBA negotiations, we heard a familiar refrain from the last time the league imposed a lockout: some teams will lose less money not playing the season than they will if they do play.  Which says a lot about the NHL and it’s business.

Can you imagine if you ran a small business that was more successful the less business you did?  Does that make any sense?  Of course it doesn’t.  If you were serious about making your business a success, or at the least make it break even, you would reexamine your business plan.

Which is what the players brought to the table in their CBA offerings.  They brought a new structure to the owners that would help the smaller market, money losing teams.  They even conceded to taking less money, something no union in the world ever wants to do.  It’s never in the best interest of a union or collective bargaining association to take less money, unless it’s to save the business they are working in.  That alone tells you that the players took their tactic seriously.

We know what happened next.  The owners dismissed the offer out of hand.  As Merlin Mann says,

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/hotdogsladies/status/12546802419″]

The owners don’t want the players running their businesses.  It’s equivalent to making the players true partners in the league, not just partners in name only, as they were after the last lockout.

If you are the NHLPA, and you bring another proposal to the table, you have several groups you need to satisfy:

– The larger market owners, like the Rangers, Kings, Wild, Blackhawks and every Canadian franchise (yes, even Winnipeg).  They have enough money to make a profit, so they want one thing only, more money.  That means more salary rollbacks and less of that money going elsewhere.  They believe that they earned it (and a few of them have), rather than being a beneficiary of circumstance.  Like stepping out of ownership in Nashville and into ownership in Minnesota.

– The smaller market owners, who are bleeding money.  They need support in a system designed to make their operating costs go up the more successful other franchises become, regardless of how their market is doing.  They want a bigger piece of that $3.3 billion they keep hearing about, but aren’t seeing.  And the direct way to that piece is to take it from the players.  The larger markets will fight them to the death to keep their profits from going to the smaller markets, EVEN THOUGH the smaller market teams are as much are reason for the success of the league and the bigger market teams than anyone else.  The larger markets don’t get 82 games a season only playing 10 other teams.

– Gary Bettman and management.  If Bettman doesn’t get an NBA-sized concession from the players, he will look like a tool.  You could argue that he already does, this being his third CBA negotiation leading directly to a lockout in a row, but for some reason, that doesn’t resonate.  His success will rest on two numbers alone,  how much larger the $3.3 billion dollars can grow, and the percentage of that overall take that goes to the “owners.”  I say owners in quotes because it won’t go to the owners in an even or fair way.  How the money is distributed doesn’t matter to his legacy, and you better believe he is building a legacy.

There is only one thing that will satisfy all three groups: less money to the players.  The NHLPA were foolish enough to believe that they could make a proposal that would benefit the league as a whole, because the league doesn’t live as a whole, it lives as thirty siblings in the same family.  Foolish as they were, they were also bold and correct.  Even if the league will never dance to the player’s tune, they should be humming along because the players proposal is much closer to saving a thirty-team league than what the owners are demanding.

In an odd way, the owners are falling into the same trap as the fans have, believing that the money being spent on players is the main reason the owners are losing money.  It’s a factor, yes, but it isn’t the entire factor, and probably not the one needing the most adjustment.  This is how the owners should be saved from themselves.  They need a more even business model, the dreaded redistribution that the league doesn’t want to touch.  It would reduce sovereignty across the thirty teams.  The league doesn’t want that responsibility, and the teams don’t want to lose the independence.

Which means they will still be losing money when the players give back a bunch of money again.  Just like last time.