Trapped in a Lockout (based on R. Kelly’s Trapped in a Closet)

If you aren’t familiar with R,. Kelly’s hip hopera Trapped in a Closet, I am not all that surprised.  It was only brought to my attention this past year.  Most people I ask refer to the South Park episode where R. Kelly tries to get Tom Cruise to literally come out of the closet.  No, that was referencing R. Kelly’s series, which was picked up by IFC and continues.  Each episode is short, and increasingly ridiculous.  It takes a real turn around episode eight, but you have to start somewhere.

This is part one of Trapped (there might be some NSFW language):

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 And so it begins.  But if you watch just one episode, I recommend episode 9.  It’s so over the top it’s genius, and so bad it’s good:

YouTube Preview Image 

You can thank me later.  No, really. 

So with this in mind, I present Trapped in a Lockout.  The end of the lockout R. Kelly style. Because some things just belong together.

 

Trapped in a Lockout Part 1

(sung by Gary Bettman)

5 AM and I’m sitting across from a man that I knooOOooww…
He looks at me with a look that says he knows me toooo…
He has a pen in his hand and he looks like he’s going to sign.
He looks at the paper once more, checking the figures a final time.

He looks at me and looks back and looks at me another time. (Oooh)
This whole damn thing has taken way too much tiiIIiimmee (Oooh)
Now he looks at the first page
Now he looks at the next page
Turns over the next page
What’s he see on the page

He puts down his pen and puts on his reading glasses
I say “Don, can we get this done, we’re tired off our asses.” 
He looks down his nose and says it’s just this one thing.
I say, what thing, he says Don’t worry, it’s not a real thing.

One! I reach in my pocket.
Two! I pull out by blood pressure meds.
Three! I take off the cap.
Four! I take out a pill.

Now my mouth is dry and and I’m looking around
And there’s no water to be foooOOouund.
I’m going to have to dry swallow this pill
Now I know how the fans feel. 

I look at the water cooler and look back
And Donald put down his pen
I think, “He didn’t sign it,
Oh no, here we go again.”

I look for the smirk on his face, the one that says, “I got you”
He’s had it on his face ever since November two.

But I look at the paper.
Looking down at the paper.
Bring my eyes to the paper.
Looking close at the paper.
There’s ink on the paper.
He put his name on the paper.
There’s his name on the paper.
He signed his name on the paper.
Then he hands me the paper.
And I pick up the paper.

And this lockout….
Is going… to… end….

(end…end…end…) 

Trapped in a Lockout Part 2

Now there’s a contract with the players 
Sitting in front of meeee…  *
What am I do?
I’m feeling kind of loopy.

This lockout could end any moment and I’m ready to go home.
My wife and kids keep wondering when I’m going to be done. 

Then Don looks at me and says
“Oh wait there’s one more things.”
My heart sinks wondering
What’s this s#$@ he’s going to briiIInngg…

Don says did I put the date next to my name?
I think to myself, this guy is playing some f@%$#ing game.

I look at the paper and see the date is there.
I tell him it’s on the sheet and he say, are you sure.
I say “Yes,” he say “No,” I say “Yes!,” he says “No!”
I scream “Look right here,” He calmly sits back and he says “Oh.” 
I want this done, I hate this man,
I’d sign just about anything.

Now I’m picking the pen up
Pick the pen in my hand up
Now I’m signing the paper
Put my name on the paper
My first name on the paper
My last name on the paper
Put the date on the paper
What’s the date on the paper
I just signed the paper. 
Did I just sign the paper?

Bill Daly sneaks up behind me and says,
“What do you want me to do?”
I say, “Bill, it’s time,
Get the Podium out.”

Bill’s jaw goes slack and he doesn’t know what to doOOooo….
Last time we got the Podium, it was a circus, and he knows it tooOOO…..

I say “Move.”
He says “No.”
I say “Move!”
He says “No!” 
BITCH, MOVE!
HE MOVES!
And then….

He looks at the tech guys
He walks to the tech guys
Get close to the tech guys
Now he talks to the tech guys

NOW PAUSE THE MOVIE because what I’m about to say to y’all is so damn random
Into the room bursts our old friend, Brendan Shanahan! 

(Shanahan…Shanahan….Shanahan…)

Trapped in a Lockout Part 3

Brendan looks around the room and says, How’s it going, friends? **
Bill say’s “Hey, what’s up, what can I do for you, Bren?”

Brendan say he’s been watching a lot of ESPN.
Did you know there’s thing called football, what will they think of next.
Everyone looks at Shanny wondering what he’s going to say.
He looks like he hasn’t shaved in one hundred and thirteen days.

Then Brendan pulls out his Beretta and he he’s waiving it around!
He screams “This lockout better end, and it better end RIGHT DAMN NOW!”
Now Daly is on the floor, covering up his head,
But Donald just sits in his chair, and says, “Listen to what that fool said.”

Now the room is silent, you can barely hear a tech guy cry,
But Don holds the CBA up to Shanny, and says, “Looks, the ink isn’t even dry.”
Brendan can’t believe it, did he just hear what he heard,
He looks at the contract, but he can’t read a word.

Tears stream down his face, and he say, Gary, what am I going to do?
And I look at Brendan and say, “Get to work, pal, I still have a job for you.” 

Now I’m ending the lockout
I just ended the lockout
Why did we have a lockout
Never needed a lockout
This is my third lockout
I just love the lockout
No games for the lockout
Relax for the lockout
Gave the fans a lockout
It’s entirely my fault

Ten years from now, when it’s someone else’s problem
I won’t have to worry about this, let the new guy solve it
I’ll be on a beach, away from the ice, where I belong,
Basketball on a TV as I like it, wearing my bikini thong (sorry)

And I won’t worry about Donald Fehr or his brother Steve
Hockey will be a distant memory, one I’ll be happy to leave.
I like hoops the best, that I can’t deny
I never cared for hockey and that’s no lie.

I look at the Podium
Walk up to the Podium
Get close to the Podium
Put my hands on the podium.

And all I can think about is my wife and kids and my dog Rover

And tell the press, The lockout..
Is finally…

Over.

(Over… over…. over…) 

*- continuity error, he has the CBA in his hand at the end of the last part, here it starts on the table – INSANE!

**Bonus points if you hear Brendan Shanahan’s voice in the style and drawl of the Cop’s wife in Episodes 8-10.

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.

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.

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.

Slip of the Lip

I’m fascinated that hockey fans can’t get their heads around how much the players make.  Much of the discontent with the NHLPA and their decision to not take what is being offered seems to be revolve around the dollar figures many of the top players receive for their efforts, and why they don’t take the millions of dollars on offer.  Well, that and the delay to the start of the hockey season.

After the fallout from the comments made by Red Wings vice-president Jim Devellano, you would think there would be a lot more sympathy for the players.

It wasn’t so much the comments that made my hair stand on end (a bit of a feat, considering how bald I am).  That the NHL owners or even just a few executives would look at the players they have under contract as ‘cattle’ doesn’t shock me at all.  These people shell out a ton of cash for near ownership of a person’s life.  It’s amazing they think of the players as people at all.

What stunned me was the amount of the fine that the NHL levied against Devellano.  $250,000.  Chew on that one for a while.  For making comments about how he views the players, and alluding to the owners potential collusion on offer sheets, the NHL took a quarter of a million dollars from Devellano.

Most fans have a hard time relating to the salaries of the players.  They make a ton of money compared to you and I, and we certainly hear a lot more about their money than the owners.  But the NHL just took the price of a nice house from a team vice-president.  $250,000 for one interview.  That’s life changing money for most people.  That’s several years salary for a middle class worker or family.

Yes, players make a ton of cash, and I talked about why in yesterday’s post.  And some of the teams are losing money, no doubt about it.  But it’s obvious some of the executives kicking around the league and the more financially successful teams are doing just fine.

As an aside, I find it highly amusing that a person who has enough money to survive a $250,000 fine is not allowed to speak his mind, in a country where the first amendment allows a person to say whatever they want.  In fact, I would love to see this kind of thing challenged in a court of law.  How is it acceptable to censor a person for comments they make that aren’t harmful to others in a society that protects free speech?

The owners are claiming they are in the poor house.  But they can charge each other half an entry-level contract for saying something stupid.  Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

CBA Chatter

I want to write about hockey, but I’m out of practice.  And it seems like everything has already been said about the current struggles in the NHL.

Yes, the finer points have been hit.  Greed, millionaires and billionaires, the poor people who won’t be working the gates and concession stands (as though the people who write about them as much as they purport to), and how the fans are screwed, have no voice, must rise up as one, and not be so quick to return to the game.

I don’t think there has been a side of the issue that hasn’t been explored, and nearly every complaint has been lodged about the lockout that has barely started.  Still, I think I should get my side out for a moment.  It could be cathartic.

-  I know it’s hard to look at the players and feel bad for them.  They make a ton of cash compared to the regular, working class person.  I try to think of them of not only being paid for what they do, but also all the time it took to become the elite players they are.  We see the time the players spend on the ice, interspersed with clips of their latest trip to the local burger joint or hospital and think they have it easy.  To me, it’s they years before that which justify their salary.

-  The other thing that justifies their salary is our willingness to pay sky-high prices for the tickets, keeping hockey-related revenue climbing higher and higher.  We are as culpable as anyone.  But if we want our live hockey fix, we have to pony up.  That’s how it is, as ticket prices for anything are based on what the market will bear, and minimum costs factoring in as well.  It’s nothing new.  Hit broadway shows charge a lot more than soon-to-be flops, even if they cost the same amount to produce. The reason is demand.  As we demand our hockey, and willingly shell out larger amounts of cash to sit in the “cheap” seats, those prices will go up.  That’s the gate-reciept business model.

-  And the fans will be back.  There aren’t any real alternatives.  We will be jonesing for hockey when it comes back.  We will show up, buy the concessions, cheer on the team, and still hate how much we pay for it.  The fans aren’t going to make the owners pay.  Even if we don’t like the owners, we love the game.  There is nowhere else to find the best players in the world.  We’ll be back.

-  This is going to seem like an unfair comparison, but stay with me here.  If you went to work tomorrow, and the boss told you that your pay was going to be cut 24%, but you were going to be doing the same job, you’d be pissed, right?  The difference between the players and ourselves is scale.  We can’t fathom losing one million dollars and still getting three million.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, because we would still be getting a lot of money.  If we were only going to get that kind of money for a few years, you can see how that might change your perspective.  So you agreed to a deal at work, and now it’s getting cut by 24%.  Wouldn’t you fight if you had the chance?

-  The notion that the owners will win no matter what, and the players should give in, is ridiculous.  You don’t back down from a fight just because it seems inevitable.  The players used up their silly gamesmanship like going to the Quebec Labor Board to try and get the lockout nullified.  Now it’s time to dig in, man up, and do the job.  The players caved the last time, mostly because the fight at the time wasn’t a winning battle, and somewhat because the NHLPA executives gave up.  But this is a fight worth fighting.  And yes, even if it costs the season.

-  Do you remember when the US had their credit rating slashed thanks to infighting over raising the debt ceiling?  I think the NHL is wading into similar territory.  How many CBAs in a row need to end in a lockout before confidence in the NHL plummets?  At this point, the CBA is just a window where hockey is played, until the next lockout.

-  Also in the way back machine, remember when hockey fans were poking NBA fans about their lockout?  Yeah, about that….

-  Lyle Richardson said something interesting on The Faceoff Hockey Show.  He said that ownership was incredibly short-sighted and that the NHLPA need to capitalize on this.  He referred to the last CBA, and all the loopholes that were left and exploited by the players.  I think he has a point, but not that broad a point.  The last CBA was an experiment, and probably should have been shorter.  Even with a year to work on it (mostly not working on it, though), accountants and lawyers crunching numbers, and the world thinking that the announced partnership between the players and management was nothing more than the players rolling over and playing dead, the CBA wound up with the players getting a lot more money than previously thought possible.  You aren’t going to nail your first salary cap, or any CBA, for any long stretch of time.  That’s why they get renegotiated after a few years.  I don’t believe it was short-sighted of the owners, just that the numbers need to be reexamined.  Mind you, not in the dramatic fashion rolled out by the owners, but they will always need adjusting.  Markets change, economies change, lots of things change.  The CBA has to change with it.

-  I should write a post on this point, but the owners aren’t all working towards the same goals.  They might all want the players to get less of the take, but do you think the smaller market teams have the same ideas of how revenue sharing should work?  Or contract length?  Or any number of similar issues?  I doubt it.  If you’re losing money, you probably have a different view on how business should work than the people making it hand over fist.

 

Looks like I did have a few things to say after all.  More later? You bet.  Including going from optimistic about there not being a lockout to the realities of being in the middle of one.

Fehr Blindsided Us All

Nobody saw this coming.

Certainly not the gloom and doom crowd, and not the nay-sayers, predicting a lockout when the NHLPA hired it’s current boss.

The moment Donald Fehr was brought into the Player’s Association, a lockout looked all but certain to most fans. But even the optimists like myself had no idea what was coming: a sweeping proposal that could change hockey’s financial system, and save many of the smaller market and struggling teams, while still giving back some concessions to the owners.

This is something that is going to take some time to digest, both for the fans and for the owners. Or at least, the owners should take some serious time to crunch these numbers. If they don’t, they will lose standing in the court of public opinion. Or to put it another way, if a player has a really bad playoff run, you might want to announce having an injury, even if you didn’t really have one. It just looks better. After the players looked and looked and questioned the ridiculous (albeit necessary) attempt to roll the clock back to the last lockout, if the owners take anything short of a half week to debate and look at this, or if they decide to dismiss it without exploring and question, they will look like knee-jerk fools who can’t see past their own egos.

We can now erase Bob Goodenow from the history books. The tactics displayed by the Executive Directors are worlds apart, and Donald Fehr seems to come out on top in the brains department. Goodenow dug his heals in to a loosing battle, thinking he could out-wait the owners, while Fehr hit them where it hurts: in reality.

Do I think the owners will accept being told by a bunch of players how to run their businesses? No, like the owner of a pizza chain doesn’t care what the dishwasher has to say about the company and how it should be run. But there are other examples of this in the world, most notably in Japan, where corporate success is a point of pride. The owners would do well to pay attention to the players here. It’s easy to forget that they see the inner-workings of the hockey business world in ways we only wish we could. They shouldn’t be discounted.

Finally, while this proposal may look attractive to the smaller market teams, how about to the potential owners of teams that could be or are being sold? Would you be less or more inclined to buy the Phoenix Coyotes if this deal (or some other modification of it) were put in place? Would you look at the financial stability of a team that was on shaky footing and see this deal as something that could help you in the long term?

We don’t have enough details about the proposal the NHLPA put forth, but we can say this for certain: there was more care put into the deal than anyone expected. Now we wait.