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Lockout update: Does anyone have a spare key?

Something is missing, their is a chill in the air, the leaves are falling, the shops are playing Christmas tunes, but something missing. A sport that generates 3.3 billion dollars of revenue, disappeared without a trace. I have been working on this blog on and off for the last 3 months, hoping vainly, maybe stupidly, maybe naively that common sense would prevail, over sheer greed, So much for hopes. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride the last couple of months, of highs and lows, of expectant hope and those hopes cruelly dashed. Is it fair to blame just one side? Is it the owners? Is it Bettman? Is it the players? Or is it Fehr? I don’t believe that anyone is entirely innocent, yet most the the blame should probably be appropriated to Bettman and the owners.

The costs of the league have risen to largely unsustainable amounts, especially for the smaller teams. Something does need to be done to cap the costs. Both sides would agree on that much. The owners want to claw back a larger share of the revenue and that is to some extent understandable. The owners front up the money, without which they would be no team, no arena, no staff, no equipment, no players, no flights across the country. The owners face the lions share of the financial risks, it is only fair that they should receive a suitable return. However the stance taken by the owners is not conducive to an equitable and quick resolution to the dispute. The owners and those acting on their behalf, have acted in bad faith from the outset of the process. They should have extended the CBA for a year, whilst a deal was reached. The owners/Bettman initially came in with a hostile offer of a 57/43 spilt of revenues in favour of the owners. The only result of this was to enrage the players, it gave the impression that the owners were not willing to treat their negotiating partners with respect. This along with other factors indicate that the owners/Bettmen are not taking this process as seriously as they should. The comments by the Red Wings executive that the players were in effect cattle, the owners out of hand dismissal to counter proposals by the players, and during the last week, leaving a voice mail, to reject a counter proposal, instead of talking direct, the withdrawal of the concessions that had in a fit of peak, to sign massive contracts, in the order of 90 million dollars then complain your wage bill is to high, to sign these contracts knowing that the expiry of the CBA meant you were unlikely to have to honor them is wrong. To say you will die on the hill of 5 year contracts, when you have been inking contracts that last years longer than five years. If 5 years is so important, why did you sign 5 years plus contracts over the last couple of seasons ? It suggests that the owners/Bettman, seems to view the players with contempt. Can you really be surprised then that negotiations fail ?

Now it is not entirely the owners fault. The players want their contracts honored and that is a reasonable request. However the players have to realize they are in a very privileged position. All across the NHL playing and viewing world, people are losing their jobs, being laid off, taking wage freezes or wage cuts. What makes the players think that they should be immune from having to accept worse conditions ? The average worker in both public and private sectors are having to accept contracts they signed be re negotiated , to worse terms and conditions just to keep their jobs.

These are the people who live pay check to pay check, who spend that money so the players can keep their good pay checks. I understand that the career of a hockey player is short, I understand the money they make over the next 4 to 5 years has to last them and their families a life time. I understand over that life time they are likely to incur higher medical expenses and suffer health problems. I also understand that just because they are earning millions it does not give the owners the right to treat them with contempt or mean they are less deserving of sympathy. The 50/50 spilt with the 300 million in additional pay is a fair offer to both sides. To complain about the length of contracts being limited or when you can become a free agent, is less justifiable. As a player you are making a fantastic wage, you get to play in some of the best arenas, you get to play with some of the most talented and athletic sportsman anywhere in the world. You get to lead a pretty cool life style, where you do not really want for anything. How many of your fans can say that ? The fans subsidize that life style you have now. I am not saying that the players are being greedy, just that it may be time to realize that they may not get everything they want, and they they may just have to live with that. That if they have to wait until 28 before coming a free agent or having contracts limited to 5 years may just be the price of playing top flight hockey in one of the worlds most elite leagues.

You who are reading this, and many blogs like it and will have your ow opinion as to blame for. The points I raise are not seeking to paint one side as more villainous, they are just my personal thoughts on the matter. The sad fact of this whole débâcle is that the people who pay the heaviest price, the ones that suffer the most are the ones that least can afford to pay it, the one that lest deserve to pay it. The arena workers, the workers in the bars, restaurants and hotels around the arenas. The city of Columbus that was due to host the all star game. Not only has our city lost out on the revenue, but it has also lost the chance to show why Columbus is such a great city, the friendliness of its inhabits , its atmosphere, and why we love our Blue Jackets so much. The NHL has made sure that the winter classic will go back to the Big House in 2014, we can only hope that they show Columbus the same respect and give us the all star game in 2015.

The whole futility of this lockout makes me angry, the fact as fans we are powerless to alter a ridiculous situation, in which billionaires battle with millionaires over how to spilt an incomprehensibly vast sum of money, enough money for a good deal all round. Yet greed and egos get in the way, all that has been achieved is the waste of nearly half the season, the money that could have earned by having games is gone. The longer it goes on the more money lost, money that will never be recovered. The owners went for the nuclear option of lockout, the players dug themselves in. None of the actors in this farce should be surprised, that they are now getting hurt by the fall out, more so than if they had the sense to come to an agreement.

I will leave now with one closing thought, if I ever I need to negotiate anything in my life, a new TV, a broadband deal, a pay rise, a mortgage, the last place I will look lessons from the NHL and NHLPA, I would end up destitute and homeless.

Footnote:

Since writing this the union is now talking about de-certification, it appears we are even further from finding a solution.

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