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Cold hard cash freezes NHL

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Looks like the chances of any NHL hockey this season are slipping away – the players average salary is $1.8 Million and they want more and the owners claim they are losing money hand over fist but surprise surprise they keep their franchises and no one looks inclined to sell theirs….hmmm…something weird going on there:

    You’d have thought on such a historic day for the NHL that someone, anyone, would have come up with something new to say.

    No such luck. Same old stuff, same old attitudes.

    Bristling indignation and shrillness from the NHL’s New York headquarters as it announced a lockout of the players’ union.

    Dogged intransigence and thinly veiled accusations of deceit from the union as it vowed never to give in.

    Not a single word of diplomacy from either side. Not an olive branch to be seen.

    This is, of course, utterly MAD, as in Mutually Assured Destruction.

    When two heavyweights square off in an NHL fight, referees will sometimes say “Let ’em go,” meaning that if the two players in question wish to scrap that much, they should be allowed to do so until one of them is beaten senseless.

    Seems to work for this fight between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association.

    So let ’em go. But before the eye-gouging begins, let’s be clear on a few matters.

    This, while a classic labour stalemate in some ways, isn’t about differing philosophies. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s not about ticket prices, or the fans, or an open marketplace, or a more competitive NHL or that most all-encompassing of terms, “the game.”

    Most certainly, it’s not about a partnership, a term both sides like to toss out but a concept neither has even the slightest interest in pursuing.

    This is a fight about money. Money. Money.

    If you understand that, it provides clarity to the situation.

    The players’ union, which has outmanoeuvred the league at virtually every turn over the past decade, wants to maintain the financial gains it has made and make new ones down the road.

    The players wish to get wealthier, to grab, if possible, an even larger slice of the league’s revenues, currently valued at more than $2 billion (all figures U.S.) annually.

    The owners’ objectives are slightly different since they don’t draw salaries.

    They wish to increase operating profits, or decrease operating losses, and enhance franchise values.

    The owners wish to get wealthier. When an incredibly rich man like John McCaw goes to sell his Vancouver Canucks, as he is apparently now going to do, he and other owners want him to be able to sell that franchise for tens of millions of dollars more than what he paid for it.

    Given that all of the owners are multi-millionaires or billionaires, and given that the average player salary is $1.8 million, this is not a fight between poor people trying to make ends meet.

    It is about avarice. Greed, pure and simple.

    More for me, less for the other guy.

    These people, owners and players, have conspired to put their own interests first and along the way have nearly ruined the game as a spectator sport.

    The very forgettable World Cup just completed was evidence of that.

    Two weeks of competition in North America and Europe produced one memorable game, the match between Canada and the Czech Republic last Saturday.

    The tournament final Tuesday between the Canadians and Finns was mediocre hockey, so much so that Mario Lemieux just kind of laughed when asked to compare it to the wondrous 1987 Canada Cup.

    “Then, there wasn’t so much hookin’, holdin’ and trappin’,” said Lemieux.

    That should leave many fans wondering just what they’re now being forced to live without.

    The players want more, the owners want more, but neither is guaranteeing the fans will get anything other than more of the same at the end of this struggle.

    Instead of picking one side or the other, the proper position is to consider all of this from an impartial point of view because whichever side comes out on top won’t be inclined to use its new position to benefit you or me or ordinary hockey fans in general.

    Having a rooting interest makes no sense, because neither side is a charity and both are interested primarily in the needs and desires of their specific constituency.

    When will the league open for business again?

    Honestly, who cares? Why be held hostage by millionaires and billionaires who are only offering more hockey dominated by goaltending, interference and stultifying styles of play?

    If they were to come back with a vastly altered product, then it might be worth caring about.

    But the last we saw from this league, at least prior to the World Cup, was a very unimpressive Stanley Cup final between Tampa Bay and Calgary. There have been promises to fix the game, but precious little action.

    This fight over how to split $2 billion, quite frankly, should offend every working Canadian.

    It’s hard to find new words to describe one’s disgust. [Toronto Star]

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About Jason Koulouras

  • mo_loh

    Long time lurker here: This post is almost word-to-word identical to a column by Damien Cox in the September 16/04 Toronto Star newspaper:

    Perhaps attribution was mistakenly forgotten? Or maybe Jason Koulouras is a pseudonym for Damien Cox?

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks for reading Mo Loh – I have put in the link and the attribution.

  • Oops on the attribution – will catch that next time
    Thanks for the heads up


  • PJ

    This will just kill the sport for the casual fans who have started watching the game over the last two exciting Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Now they will have to start from scratch, with an even worse television contract.

    But no one thinks a new CBA will allow the owners to lower ticket prices.

  • Thanks PJ, I wonder if the same thing will happen to hockey as what happened to baseball post 94 – that is interest falls off for good in certain segments of the market