Ready, set, go - go and find something else you will enjoy watching this fall if you're a hockey fan because the NHL isn't coming back before winter, if then. Donald Fehr is not backing down and the owners never back down and that means no NHL hockey.
There will be another lockout on September 15 as sure as Scott Gomez is overpaid. This will happen because the owners, in the long term, can afford to miss time, and the players, in the short term, can afford to miss time. So with a militant leader at the helm of the NHLPA, one cooler under fire than the emotional, and deposed, Bob Goodenow, but who also wants to win at all costs, hope of a quick solution is negligible.
A salary cap and beyond
Before the last lockout the owners - the much maligned Gary Bettman is a talented shill, nothing more - knew that a major adjustment was a necessity. Fans should be glad they did or contracts would have gone even higher than they have, which would mean in some markets fewer of us would be able to afford the price of tickets. But guess what? It didn't get much better.
Last time the owners knew six years of the soon-to-expire CBA would show them how well it did or did not work. It works to some extent but too much of the increased revenue was going to the players and the cap was growing too large at both ends. Further, the length of contract loophole was driving up salary and the result was crazy contracts, in particular for top end players, like those just handed Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Shea Weber.
The players, and most fans, blame owners but when your top end players are making more than some corporations you have to concede something isn't right. And for all of you who think NHL owners are greedy capitalist seeking huge profits - you're right. That's what they are but go back to 2004: the owners threw absurd amounts of money at players - as now with Suter, Parise and Weber - and broke the spirit of their own rules in the name of winning.
Naturally that threatens profits but it just so happens greedy capitalists are the exact personality type that crave victory at all costs. They need rules to stop themselves, like players need headshot rules to stop themselves, for without a set revenue share figure and a salary cap, they will keep outbidding one another and player contracts will read like Mitt Romney's bank statements; the game will be for the wealthy, arenas full of corporate clients.
Unwieldy NHLPA at mercy of Fehr
With about 1,000 members in the NHLPA and the majority having already made enough to keep a pack of wolves from the door, they can lose games in the short term. But you take a season from a guy who may only get two or three total in the league, you take away his chance to end his career with enough of a nest egg to take care of his family for life. Those players, and others who enjoy making money they couldn't approach in any other profession, and who want to compete will, like last time, find it hard to get their voice heard and as a growing number want to get back to the ice they can't, or won't, be able to make that desire known without breaking rank.
It surely is frustrating for many, especially given all the NHLPAs accomplished is to create a CBA that gives high-end players the moon. Those players can enjoy their golf game and extra time with the kids while the rank and file will soon start to miss cheques that matter. But Fehr is in charge, his tone, attack, his wants, drive the union and while the players blithely followed Fehr for the short term, as they did Goodenow, once that puck has started rolling downhill, it's hard for such a large membership to make it stop.
No such problems for the owners, there is only 29 of them, all rich and they didn't get that way by allowing people like Bettman to tell them what to do. He does their bidding and if they say cave, there will be a new CBA. But they won that salary cap by shutting the league down for a season and increased revenue since, so don't expect them to cave. Further, the value of franchises will climb if they negotiate an equal share of revenue, so another work stoppage suits them fine.
The players jump into this able to afford it in the short term but, like last time, they will not be able to put the brakes on their leader. Donald Fehr is taking them to the edge and, like Goodenow, he may take a season of NHL hockey and throw it right out of the ice-rink. The players looked foolish in 2004, rich beyond dreams and yet screaming foul, but given how badly they lost, Fehr may think he's doing them a favor by digging in their skate blades.
Which begs the question - could it be two seasons this time?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com