NHL lockout: Didn’t we just have one?

Scott Feschuk on players, owners and the PR war

Didn’t we just have one of those?

Getty Images; CP; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

We’re weeks from an NHL lockout and I know what you’re thinking: didn’t we just have one of those? We did. Remember that long, dark winter when you spent Saturday nights actually talking to your family? Believe me: they couldn’t wait for it to end, either. With the league having set Sept. 15 as the deadline for a new agreement, let’s see where things stand:

Who are the main players?

The owners are represented by Gary Bettman. Known to his friends as “Sir” because those “friends” are actually employees that he forced to come out for a drink, Bettman has been league commissioner for almost 20 years now. To this day, he remains every bit as popular among hockey fans as $9 arena beers. The head of the players’ union is Donald Fehr, who attends negotiating sessions in the company of high-profile players such as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. This has symbolic value—but it may be risky to allow the work-averse Ovechkin to float his way through bargaining.

Bettman: So we’re agreed then—owners get 103 per cent of revenues in perpetuity.

Ovechkin: [Nods while reading a comic book.]

What is the current state of negotiations?

There’s not much common ground. Here’s what the owners want: a radically altered revenue split, a reformed salary cap and stricter rules for free agency. Here’s what the players want: not that.

Who’s got more leverage?

For most owners, their NHL team is basically a $200-million vanity licence plate. In fact, it’s entirely possible that several of these people don’t even realize they own a hockey team. Example: it is widely believed that the purchase of the New York Islanders was a gesture of spite by Charles Wang’s disgruntled accountant.

Where does Don Cherry stand on this?

Don summed it up nicely: “Everybody’s making money but everybody wants more money.” If the CBC is smart, the network will keep Cherry busy this fall on its other shows. He’d be perfect for Dragons’ Den. THAT DUMB IDEA IS STUPID AND EVERYTHING. Plus, imagine how much fun it would be to hear him try to pronounce “entrepreneur.” It would take him a week.

What will players do if they are locked out?

Some will play overseas. Most will pursue other interests such as realizing that hockey players don’t have other interests, at which point they’ll just stare out a window or at a spoon or something.

Who’s winning the public-relations war?

Bettman said recently, “We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans.” Fans rightly took that as an insult, like when a woman tells a guy, “You’re great because you don’t make me think too much.” (And may I just say: That still stings, Rhonda.) Bettman is probably right that hockey fans will always come back. But does he really need to rub our noses in a puddle of our own helplessness?

Who should I root for?

The players. The owners got pretty much everything they wanted last time and now they’re bellyaching that it didn’t work out as planned. Well, BOOHOOHOO. Let’s remember: it’s the owners who’ve put teams in cities that have tens of hockey fans. It’s the owners who are throwing $7 million a year at players like Scott Gomez. (Tragically for Canadiens’ fans, none of this money is being thrown at Gomez in the form of pennies from a good height.) What have the players done wrong? They just get handed outlandish contract offers and say, “Um, okay.” Hard to hold it against them.

What are the implications of an extended lockout?

It’s going to be tough on players if they don’t suit up until January. The Leafs usually need a good five months to figure out how they’re going to miss the playoffs.

When will it end?

I’m not saying I’m pessimistic but this year’s edition of HBO’s 24/7 series will likely focus on Ducks’ coach Bruce Boudreau cutting up mango for his New Year’s Eve fruit tray. Expect profanity.

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NHL lockout: Didn’t we just have one?

  1. I could be crazy for saying this but, until a strike happens lets imagine a world where they actually come to an agreement by Sept 15. That’s two weeks. If there’s a strike after that we should point out that saying: “Here’s my position. What’s your position? Oh, that!” is that really negotiating.

  2. What about all the people that work at the arenas!!!!! Where will they work?
    Concession, parking, ticket folks? They make 20,000-30,000 vs players and owners making millions… Start thinking about the little guy for once and get to work…. Yes work… It’s a job that you get millions to do..just like NFL refs who make $180,000 for 18 games… Try working for a living
    I love hockey, rink in the yard in the winter, play pickup, but you guys are a joke!!!

  3. I have the perfect solution – Fire bettman.

    • that’s the answer he is working on his 3rd lockout i want to see my caps play this year but im a true sports fan so we have baseball football and basketball here hockey is very popular here bettman and owners remember they are hard working people that your greedines effects get it together i’ve not seen you playing with stictches or broken noses parking cars or selling beer and food stop being so greedy

      • some punctuation would be nice jenny because i don’t understand where your sentences end and where they begin it would be nice if i had some indication that way i could tell if i agreed to what you were saying or not right now i’m not going to agree with you because of all the reasons i’ve listed so far

    • Fuhr first!

  4. It’s the owners that wave those blank checks over the shoulders of up and coming hockey stasr. The owners would cut each others throats to get what they want. Buy the way, who negotiates Gary Bettman’s salary? ( note how i spelt the word buy )

  5. Like Feschuk says, Buttman (not a typo – see Bon Cop Bad Cop) is as popular as $9.00 arena beer. Time to toss him out like a lease contract with the city of Glendale, AZ. As a Canadian fan, I am tired of paying premium prices while “fans” from the Southern states pay lower (subsidized by me) prices. I am also tired of the media saying in response to fans complaints with “That’s the price you pay for professional sports.” Oh yeah? So why do Tampa Bay fans get free parking, as well as cheap hotdogs and beer for their $20.00 ticket?
    When was the last time a Canadian fan paid $20.00 for ticket?

  6. Hey Fuhr thanks for screwing up baseball in 1994,hockey next. Get out of sports A-Hole!

  7. I think it is time to say good-bye to hockey. You have greedy owners and greedy players making a fuss to try and suck more money out of your pocket. They all want more money… where is it going to come from … ticket sales. So the bottom line is they want us to pay more . Pretty soon ticket prices will be for the rich only. When they realize that the rich don’t watch hockey what will they do? The answer put teams where people wanna watch… back in Canadian cities. Lower the ticket price and you will fill arenas which will pay player salaries and fill owners pockets. A win win situation don’t you think.But, while Bettingman continues to chase the american dollar the league will continue to suffer.

  8. Fire bettman would be the best thing for everyone, The guy is a fucking joke, The only time he doesn’t get boo’d by fans is when he walks on the ice with RR mother, Fire that overpaid jerk off

  9. What would happen if they threw a hockey with overpriced tickets and no one came? Is there a ticket price that will cause people to stay home, or better yet support semi-pro leagues?

  10. Not too caustic, are you, Scott?
    And this is why I go to NHL.com for just the highlights… why should I put up with all the rest of this BS? (I’m still shaking my head in confusion at how a perpetually under-performing team in Toronto can MAKE money every year…AND maintain loyal fans…)

  11. Fuhr destroyed baseball and with it the Montreal Expos in 1994. Hockey next!

  12. Weeeeeeak!… I smell a crunch for a deadline here… Insulting hockey players and everyone involved… cracks about Don Cherry’s intellect…please buddy, that is so tired. I want my 3 minutes back. This article is a total waste of bandwidth.

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