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STEWART LAKE… Yes, the NHL lockout is ongoing, sadly. The more I think about it, the more irritated I get. As time has gone on with this debacle, my opinions have evolved a bit, but my basic stances on who, what, where, when, and why haven’t changed too much. Based on the actions and thus inaction of Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league, I am of the opinion that the NHL wanted to lock out the players all along. You can state that there are hard feelings leftover from the previous lockout, and you would be right.
Let’s also say that the league crammed a salary cap down the throats of the players by locking them out the last time around, but then agreed to the percentage split of hockey-related revenues favorable to the PA (57% to 43%). The players and their NHLPA had leadership issues to resolve between the last CBA negotiation and this one, and they did. I think they were of the belief that they were going to need a hardliner to conduct business for them this time around, so they got former MLBPA leader Don Fehr. Based on the way the NHL has gone about the current negotiation, and on what the league has offered thus far, the players got the right guy.
The opening salvo from the league featured a request to flip-flop the percent of HRR to 57-43 in their favor and for it to kick in immediately and to include all existing contracts, even those signed in this past summer’s free agent signing period. The PA responded in kind. Ever since then, the league has offered nonsensical “shiny objects” to the players in the form of the “make whole” contract provision and other assorted bologna, and has always accompanied those offerings with contract give-backs from the players. The league knows before they even put these on the table that the players will reject them, and then they will try to make the PA look bad in the public eye.
And so on and so forth. It’s Thanksgiving week and we have had nary a second of NHL puck so far. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says the players “should get a reality check.” Statements like this are only proof to me that the owners and league officers are getting all pouty because the players won’t roll over for them. Does the league need to change its financial footing for its own long-term health? The answer to that is yes, it does. Certainly, as of right now it is a third-third-third league. A third of the 30 clubs are doing well, a third are in the middle, and the final third are probably in financial limbo.
So, before any further negotiation, let’s get these things straight: the NHL wanted a salary cap and they got it. The league agreed to the current split of HRR. In addition, in order to “grow the game” (and its revenues, to benefit ALL involved), the league introduced the game to places it had never been before. When it comes to signing players to contracts, either the players’ rep or their team (current or prospective) makes an offer, negotiates, and then agrees to numbers and terms. Also, upon settling the last CBA, the owners and their proxies (GMs) went about finding every way they could to circumvent the spirit of the last agreement. We saw contract “stuff” occurring that we had never been witness to before. Fifteen-year contracts? $100 mil plus deals?
My point is simply this: the owners own the clubs—they operate them and they are in total control of their financial functioning and all other business that entails the operation of a team. The players aren’t. The players play and get paid for so doing. They don’t decide to put teams in places with tropical weather, or where Jai Alai is the most popular sport, or where cactus is the most favored yard shrubbery.
If the league is in financial flux, then it is because of the way the owners have conducted business and have been allowed to do so by the league. The NHL is NOT run by the players. If you need help in the form of a different split of HRR, say so and ask the players to partner with you to accomplish this. Don’t ask them to accompany it with contract givebacks that were fought for and agreed to a long time ago. Anything else is total and absolute bullshit, Mr. Commissioner, and you know it. Or maybe in the emerging picture of you and the greedy capitalists you represent, you don’t. The league’s approach to this vital deal-making process is nothing short of reprehensible…
COLLEGE HOCKEY IS in full swing, and the WCHA has been interesting, to say the least. The Bulldogs were in Grand Forks over the weekend, ending up in two hard-fought OT games only to come back with one point and a spot in the basement of the league. The Dogs deserved better, and I don’t believe that’s where they will be positioned at the end of the season. But while some separation appears to be occurring in the standings, I think at the same time you can make a strong case for parity. I’ll dig into this a bit more next week!
THIS IS THE time of year when we gather together to give thanks and a show of gratitude for all we have in our lives. I have seen opulence at its best (and worst), and I have seen places of extreme poverty. My life has had its challenges, like everyone else, but I know in my heart of hearts that I have also been one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Since childhood I have gotten to meet and know some of the greatest human beings on earth, and at the end of the day, that’s what makes it all go round… PEACE.
THE MFAN NFL PICKS FOR WEEK 12:
(HOME team in CAPS)
Houston over LION
Wash over BOYS
Pats over J-E-T-S
BEAR over Vikes
CINCY over Oakland
Steel over BROWNIES
INDY over Buff
Bronco over CHEFS
Seabirds over FISH
TAMPA over Atlanta
Tenn over JAX
SAN DIEGO over Balt
CARDS over Goatmen
SAINTS over San Fran
Caro over EAGLE
NYG over Cheese
WEEK 10: 9-4 (tie game tossed out)
WEEK 11: incomplete
OVERALL: 90-55. OVER & OUT!
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.