Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Battle of Who Could Care Less

Originally posted at Pension Plan Puppets

You missing the NHL yet?
I’m not.
In fact, I could probably do with a little less NHL coverage.
The pre-season is a bit of a joke anyway. 45 players in camp, loads of breathless analysis and hype when anyone who’s looked at the roster knows there’s maybe one or two roster spots open, both of which are on the 3rd and 4th line, plus a seat in the pressbox.
Full price tickets to see 15 minor leaguers play 15 minor leaguers. Ten days later Glen Metropolit is battling Espen Knutsen for the pre-season scoring title. Exciting times.
No exhibition games might be the best thing about this lockout, although the NHL-imposed gag order on owners and managers is a close second.
The absence of NHL hockey is something that would ordinarily cause me some grief but I’ve skipped the five stages of grief completely. As far as this lockout goes, I started out indifferent and indifferent is where I've remained.
The main reason I'm completely disengaged from the lockout negotiations is that the game of hockey has no advocate at the bargaining table.
In this current labour impasse, no one is looking out for the good of the sport we all love.
As Commissioner, Gary Bettman’s gig isn’t to be an ambassador, leader or visionary for hockey. He’s the CEO of the NHL, representing and reporting to the owners. His primary duty is to maximize their equity and profits. The introduction of glow pucks and the shoot-out, combined with the third work stoppage of his tenure, tells you everything you need to know about the Commissioner and the sanctity of the game.
The NHLPA exists to protect jobs and ensure that remuneration opportunities are not eroded too badly in the new CBA.
As a result, these negotiations are entirely about how to split over $3 billion in revenues between 30 teams and 700 players. They are not about addressing systemic issues or finding solutions to the challenges that have plagued the league for decades. There is little doubt that these systemic issues and the labour stoppage are inextricably linked, yet neither side appears willing or able to address them.
There will be no talk of contraction or appropriate team locations. No sub-committee meetings on the failings of the sun belt strategy. There most certainly won't be anyone calling for changes to the worst elements of the culture of hockey - cleaning up the nepotism and cronyism among NHL executives and employees. No debate over the importance of an impartial 3rd party for discipline and appeals processes. No consideration for some sort of ombudsmen to help mediate positive changes to the game.
Instead, we're left with players vs. owners in an unfortunately adversarial system that's willing to forego discussing how to improve the game (re-alignment, balanced schedules, Olympic participation, under 20 NA born players in the AHL, etc.) in pursuit of partisan economic priorities.
As neither party is primarily interested in the good of the game, I can’t see any reason for me to track arguments about what constitutes HRR. Besides, if neither the NHL nor the NHLPA gives a toss about hockey, why should I?
I give Leafs President and GM Brian Burke a lot of grief, but I do want to point out something he said last January that was surprisingly prescient.
When Colton Orr was demoted, Brian Burke told the media that he feared "that the rats will take this game over."
It turns out Burke was right to fear it. The rats have taken over the game, but they aren't on the ice, they're in the boardrooms.

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