Read It Here: The NHL Has Stooped To A New Bargaining Low, And The Mfan NFL Picks For Week 8!

Marc Elliott

ELY… In just the past few days, I have had my hopeful but unrealistic optimism about getting the NHL lockout resolved dashed and destroyed. I was dreaming that we might still have a sixty- or seventy-game regular season and a full playoff tournament.
It was not an easy thing for me to reach this conclusion, but it is now ultra-apparent. I have never really wanted to take sides in this thing. I still don’t. I understand how we have the NHL because the owners invest in their franchises and sign players to contracts and provide fans with the product that we enjoy and care about. I get all of that.

Being a student of hockey, I also can understand how it came to be that the players would feel the need to unionize and be represented as a group to the league and its franchisees. When I first started watching the NHL, there was no players’ union. There was no NHLPA. And if you knew of and understood the plight of the player pre-union, you would understand why they would have wanted to organize. You can argue that they have a pretty good life now. And I would agree with you that they do.

But while some fans would wonder if the need for an NHLPA still exists, I would argue that yes, it does. And this particular CBA negotiation is solid proof why. After last week’s stunt offer by the league to the players, and after piecing two plus two together as to why they made last week’s non-offer, my ability to remain objective and look at both sides has been compromised. You see, I LOVE hockey. Yes, L-O-V-E. This is my favorite sport, hobby, spare time activity, etc. From mini mites to the Olympics, high school, college, you name it. This is my favorite thing. I need hockey as I need water and oxygen. It’s just that simple.

And my favorite part of that to watch is the NHL. I love a good college game. I have seen literally hundreds of them. But when I see college hockey and watch the 10 skaters out there, I know that maybe one, and that’s a maybe, will make it to the show. But when I’m watching the show, all 10 skaters are probably good. Sure, some will be better than others, but I know that all 10 were stars wherever they came from. So, for top-level puck, you are more likely to see an overall higher quality of play in the NHL than at the other levels. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen some pretty exciting tilts at other levels, because I have, but you know what I mean.   

So last week’s developments came as huge disappointments. On Tuesday the NHL announced that they were putting forth a “new” offer in hopes of salvaging an 82-game regular season, and that they needed approval by Oct. 25 in order to move forward. Fan optimism skyrocketed. Then the big letdown. It was announced on Wednesday that after meeting for just one hour and disqualifying three counteroffers from the players, talks had broken down once again. Sadness hit.

A Twin Cities scribe was doing his best to keep us abreast of all available info. But at the same time, we weren’t in that room, and neither was he. As usual, my mind was revving up, out of control. My first question is always this: what is really going on here? So, I started trying to piece together a plausible scenario. I recalled breezing through an article a couple of weeks ago about the league hiring a political strategist, a fellow by the name of Frank Luntz. He specializes in guiding public opinion. In addition, if you read about him from the point of view of his detractors, he doesn’t mind using half-truth or even no-truth to do his work. It is only the final result that matters to him or to those that hire him.

I did some more digging on Mr. Luntz. Suffice it to say that my eyebrows were raised. I saw several stories stating that the NHL hired him solely to “win the PR battle in the minds of the fans.” This was to be achieved by making the union look like the bad guy in bargaining talks, and through other like methods. Next, I had to consider that the two sides had really ceased any constructive dialogue three weeks prior. And now, suddenly, the league extends the “holy grail” of offers, says it will save the entire season, and the players should take it because it’s the last and best offer they will get—and by the way, we need your answer pronto.  

To be fair, it seems as though the PA responded to the nonsense of the league’s offer with their own nonsense. But in my opinion, the league tabled an offer certain to be dismissed by the PA, and the PA responded by saying, “Here, smoke this.” At that moment I knew that Luntz had made his first move on behalf of the owners. I know there is still bad blood and lingering hard feelings from the last CBA and subsequent lockout, but this move, initiated by the league and its owners to influence public opinion against the union and the players, all the while not resolving the problems and forging a new agreement, is as tasteless and contemptible as it gets for me. Where does it go from here? Nowhere, my friends, nowhere, but I am neutral no longer. More to come, so stay tuned… PEACE

(HOME team in CAPS)
VIKE over Bucs
BEAR over Caro
San Diego over BROWNIES
Seabirds over LION
TENN over Indy
Pats over GOATMEN
J-E-T-S over Fish
Atlanta over EAGLE
Wash over STEEL
CHEFS over Oak
NY Giant over BOYS
Niners over CARDS
BRONCO over Saints

SEASON: 61-42

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 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.