Friday, September 14, 2012

Cold War 2012 Has (unofficially) Begun

The dread for many has been mounting for a while now.  For some, it only really started setting in after all was said and done, with last year's Cup finals coming to a conclusion.  For the eternal optomists, it may not have set in...until now.  With little more than a day left before the expiration of the NHL's previous collective bargaining agreement, the NHL owners and the NHLPA are not meeting again to try to hash out a deal until next week, according to numerous professional sources.

Which means, as far as those not at the negotiating table are concerned, the NHL lockout of the 2012-2013 season has begun.

There was much cause for hope over the last few weeks, with the PA very sure that a deal could be reached and plenty of time left before the September 15th deadline.  Hopes started to sour, however, as soon as the owners--led by most NHL fanbase's Public Enemy #1, Gary Bettman--issued their initial proposal.  The terms were outrageous, even from a business standpoint: Massive slashes in pay across the board along with new restrictions that would restrict a player's freedom in almost every aspect and phase of their career.  Counter-offers were made, turned down, and new proposals were written up, only to meet the same fate, and now here we are, with the lockout all but official.

Some will blame the owners, with their plea to stake claim to a bigger piece of an already growing pie.  Revenues over the term of the last CBA have vastly improved, but that apparently is not enough.  Some will blame the Players' Association, believing that people paid such a substantial amount for their annual salaries should suck it up and take whatever the owners offer them, what is a couple-hundred thousand dollars to them anyway?

What is being missed, though, is the key concept that fueled the last lockout and changed the face of the NHL when it returned: Parity.

What has worked so well for the inner workings of the NHL and its franchises should be the foundation of these labor talks.  There needs to be equal treatment and equal consideration if these talk are ever to amount to anything beyond some children's squabble.  'I deserve more and this is why!' is countered with 'No, -I- deserve more and -this- is why!' when the point is simply this: both sides of this dispute are necessary to create a winning formula for a sporting league.  You have some of the finest business minds on one side of the table looking over at a group of some of the finest athletes on the planet at the other end.  Take either one of the components away and you do not have a lucrative product.

These two groups need to better learn how to share, because until they do, the fans are the ones who will suffer, and that is one group that is completely out of the control of the owners -or- the players.  If you lose the trust of the fans, TV's go to different channels, jerseys don't get bought, and seats don't get filled.  This lockout is bad business all around.

Take a seat close to the fire, comrades.  The Cold War is just beginning.