Nhl Crock-Out Has Arrived, Mlb On Collision Course With Playoffs, And Mfan Nfl Picks Week 3!

Marc Elliott

CLOQUET…. Well, fellow NHL fans, here we go again. At 23:00 CT this past Saturday evening, the NHL officially went into lockout mode. I have spent a lot of time trying to get a handle on this over the past 36 hours, and my thoughts are as clear as mud. Should I be mad? Who should I be mad at? Should I let league commissioner Gary Bettman have it, or NHLPA head Donald Fehr? Should I let the clubs’ free-wheeling, over-spending GMs have it? The players? How about the young gals running the mini donut machines at the ’X’?  
I guess for starters I am mad that once again we have uncertainty hanging over another NHL season full of promise. Our hometown heroes, the Wild, just spent the summer taking the franchise from family sedan status to hot rod show car, and I want to see how it will do out on the track. I really do. It would be easy to say that I don’t give a rat’s rump about the business side of sports, but I do. I don’t pore over it like a bookkeeper with the company books, but I pay attention. And since I do, it has led me to some questions about the NHL and how they go about their business.
We know that in 2004 the owners locked out the players so they could win the right to institute a salary cap. Additionally, the players had their existing contracts rolled back 24 percent. Most fans would say that the owners won a decisive victory in that negotiation. Well, they won, but so did the players. The “cap” has gone up every season since its advent, and that has provided room for the escalation of player salaries. Quite simply, the players have never done better, no matter what you believe the outcome was post-lockout.
As for the league, since the 2004-05 lockout, league revenues have gone up a tremendous 33 percent, roughly. So now the owners come along and ask for a 14 percent rollback in revenues to the players. (Insert quizzical caveman-animal grunt Tim Allen sound effect HERE.) Throw into the fray that there are allegedly several clubs losing serious money in small markets and/or what some refer to as non-traditional hockey markets. I have never been one to get into a tizzy over the small or non-trad market question marks. The problem is that when the teams aren’t that good, attendance suffers. I believe that all of them have proven that when they are competitive, the fans show up. The challenge is that every team goes through that cycle sooner or later.
The three major issues standing in the way of a new CBA seem to be the definition of “hockey-related revenues,” the percent of that the players can divide, and how to financially shore up some of the weaker clubs revenue-wise. Since the owners wanted 14 percent back onto their ledger, I would have to believe they would be happy if they got half of that. For me, I firmly believe that labor is always superior to capital, and that the least the players should accept is a 51/49 split in their favor. HRR?  Well, if someone spends a buck on an NHL product, right down to parking fees, etc., that should go into the pool. People don’t go out to the arenas and park their cars unless they are going to games. As far as helping out clubs struggling with revenue, agree on a number for a pool and have the league and the PA fund that equally. It keeps the league at 30 clubs and that helps add some vibrancy and protects some jobs for the PA. I do not want to address a contraction situation, period.
At the end of the day, this situation is a CROCK. It is highly unnecessary that we are into another labor dispute in this league. Bettman didn’t press the issue of a start date for negotiations because he wanted to allow Fehr a chance to settle into his new position with the PA. And for reasons unknown to me, Fehr didn’t push back. This goes back to pre- Winter Classic. What I have concluded is that the league and the owners knew all along that they would lock out the players, and that this is their new golden goose negotiating strategy.
I think this is quite a gamble on behalf of the owners. For all of the forward movement the sport and the league has made over the past eight years, I have never had the sense that the game is as solidly entrenched in the USA as the NFL or MLB. That the owners are willing to roll the dice in this manner is as irresponsible as it gets. Sadly, the fans probably won’t organize a united front to the extent that they could exercise any power against the owners. We are stuck once again with having to put up with a situation that most of us can’t relate to or do anything about. Gary and Donald, I want to give you both a big boot right in the…   
IF THE MLB PLAYOFFS started today, we would have the Yanks, White Sox, Texas, Oakland, and Baltimore from the AL, and Washington, Cincy, San Fran, Atlanta, and St. Loo from the NL. It’s not over yet, though. The Angels and Rays are still hanging around in the AL Wild Card, and the Dodgers are pestering the Cards for the last NL spot. The O’s could still knock the Yanks back into a wild card spot, while the NL division winners are pretty much locked up. The Tigers are pushing the White Sox. It doesn’t appear that an AL Central team would get a wild card spot—it’s win the division or go home. Should be an exciting finish to the regular season…. PEACE
(HOME team in CAPS)
CARO over Giant
BEAR over Goatmen
Buff over BROWNIES
BOYS over Bucs
FISH over J-e-t-s
Niner over VIKES
SAINTS over Chefs
WASH over Cincy
LION over Tenn
COLT over Jax
CARDS over Eagle
SAN-D over Atlanta
Texan over BRONCO
Steel over OAK
Cheese over SEABIRDS
BALT over Pats

WEEK ONE: 11-5
WEEK TWO: 7-8/incomplete
SEASON: 18-13  

Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.