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.