With no further talks planned and the NHL prepares itself for its third lockout in three CBA negotiations – a natural hat trick of sort for Gary Bettman and his league – I don’t think I could have said things much better than Scott Burnside did:
The National Hockey League and its players had a golden opportunity to cement its place as the cool kids on the sporting block, to prove that the game is indeed separate and unique, that the game was worthy of such sentiment.
They were a long way down that track when presented with this opportunity.
An award-winning HBO reality series, the Winter Classic, Stanley Cups in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles. Stars galore. Record revenues.
And then, even better, a chance this summer to prove that hockey was indeed unique by actually getting their act together on the labor front.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
For the second time in eight years, the sport that loves to claim its fans are the best in the world closes its doors to those fans, with guesses ranging from weeks to months to an entire season when it might next return.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
It takes a certain kind of arrogance for the NHL to piss away all the goodwill and growth from the last time it shut its doors, just a mere seven years ago.
Much like it takes a certain kind of arrogance for its Commissioner to assume its fans would simply forgive, forget and buck up again. And over and over again.
And they wonder why it has never truly reached the heights enjoyed by the NFL, MLB and NBA – leagues it wants to compare itself to in these negotiations.
Seven years ago, the NHL became the first North American professional sports league to cancel an entire season because of a labor dispute. It was a necessary evil, they said, to fix a broken economic system and achieve cost certainty.
It must’ve worked because since then, all we’ve heard from Bettman and the league are reports of an improved on-ice product (give or take the last year), expanded broadcast contracts, record merchandise sales and record revenue growth. We heard all this as recently as three months ago in June.
But now, suddenly, this same system isn’t good enough.
As if the league forgot all their press conferences and rewrote all their press releases, the system suddenly wasn’t working. They couldn’t operate another season under this CBA, said Bettman, even as teams were signing players to big deals with big dollars and big terms today and in the days leading to today.
The fact is, the NHL, greedy as it is, simply wants more for itself. Apparently, they’re sharing way too much of their revenue with the players, they’re paying too much in salaries, and for the second time in eight years, they want to rollback contracts they willingly signed.
And they’re willing to waste all the progress they made in the last seven years to get it.