Saturday, 22 December 2012

Has the damage already been done?

Dear Readers,

Today, I bring you verbatim, a bit of levity written by Damien Cox, Sports Columnist for the Toronto Star, By levity,  I mean the most common response in the newspaper's op-ed pages about  the NHL players strike is...who cares! Hell, even Obama wasn't interested! Once again, my response is below and, as always there is space for your comment, assuming that your comment differs from almost everybody else!

The stands are empty at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and all around the NHL as the lockout continues. The league insists that a deal must be in place by mid-January to ensure a minimum 48-game season.                                                                 (photo by Paul Sancya/AP)
Crunch time. Finally. After about four months of nonsense from NHL owners and NHL players, after all the delays and pointless rhetoric and name-calling and posturing, after pretending that Don Fehr and Gary Bettman are the decision-makers rather than merely the messengers, we’re now down to the nub of the matter. Do a deal in the next few weeks and have a partial season. Or don’t.

Seriously, just yes or no. We understand both sides have a deep and abiding distrust and even dislike for one another, peculiar since owners and players have done a pretty good job over the past seven years of putting lots and lots of greenbacks in each other’s pocket. We all know the history, and we all know that each side believes the other side hasn’t negotiated in good faith. Now, just tell us yes or no.

We understand clearly that there will be no winners and losers out of all this. Everyone and everything involved has suffered real and lasting damage, and there’s no result possible that will make any noticeable difference in the game, the fan experience, the success of franchises in non-hockey markets or the overall status of the modern NHL player.

Owners have been revealed one more time to be grasping and hypocritical, with little or no abiding interest in the good of the game. They blame the players for their screwups, then expect the union to offer givebacks. Even the moderates have been pushed into the hawk camp, the entire NHL approach has to be lawyer-centric and the union has successfully portrayed those who sign the cheques as liars and cheats.

And the players? The damage done by the moronic words of Kris Versteeg and Ian White, by the bricks of bills images put on social media by Evander Kane, by players stealing jobs in Europe then bolting for home, by the non-sensical legal threats and by the sour milk spilled by Kyle Turris will have a much more lasting impact than the moderate, clear thinking words of Sidney Crosby and Kevin Westgarth or the charitable good done by a few exhibitions.

Once hockey players were seen to be different. Just good, honest boys happy to play for the love of the game. Poof! — gone forever. Pervasive social media has given fans and media a window into the way NHLers think, and for the most part, it has not been a flattering view. Basically, the biggest achievement so far by either side has been discrediting the opponent, thus permanently injuring the profile of the overall industry. Congrats, boys.

The game, meanwhile, already was damaged by the way in which the Bettman administration had once again stood by and allowed the lowest common denominator to take over. People say Bettman’s negative legacy will be all these lockouts. More likely, it will be his regime’s chronic inability to preserve the most entertaining elements of the sport. If the two sides do cut a deal and start playing next month, it’s really unclear how fans will react. What is certain is that unlike the post-lockout world of 2005, there will be no magic potion to catapult the game back into the imagination of fans, no “new” NHL with altered rules to help people forget all the negative business vibes.

Remember, the 2011-12 campaign was the Year of The Blocked Shot, and that’s what we’ll be going back to. Still, the NHL will be generally welcomed back in about 18-20 of its 30 markets. Places like Dallas, Columbus, Long Island, St. Louis and Anaheim probably haven’t even noticed the season didn’t start, but all the Canadian cities and U.S. markets like Philly, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Washington, New York and Pittsburgh will surely be happy to start filling the rinks again. But all that, really, is just details. The time is nigh for a decision.

Yes or no. Play or don’t play. Decide. We, the hockey community at large, can live with either choice, as has been proven in recent months. Sure, we’d like the NHL to play. It’s the best league in the world. Why wouldn’t we? But all the entertainment choices available to North Americans, sporting or otherwise, have eased the pain for all but the most hardcore and narrow-minded of hockey fans.

The owners and players believe they are indispensable, that they can spit in the eye of their customers because they’ve done it before and the customers have flooded back. That’s made it even easier to turn to other options, and we’ll see if those alternatives remain fixed when this absurd standoff ends. The good news is that we’ll know relatively soon if there will be a season. This hostage-taking is just about over, one way or another.

Crunch time has arrived. Finally

                                           A worried NHLPA executive director Don Fehr?

my response....

Do the NHL Players really intend to follow their Association leader down this path, come January? What we do know is that the union refused to reveal the results following six days of voting that ended Friday at noon, and it doesn’t mean the NHLPA will file the disclaimer right away. With more than a few dissenters, the executive board hasn’t made plans yet to meet to discuss whether to file the disclaimer. If the Jan. 2 deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a later filing. If the executive board files the disclaimer, the union would dissolve and become a trade association. That could allow players to file binding antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended Dec. 6 with no bargaining scheduled, and time is running short to save the season. Games through Jan. 14 have been cancelled; more than half the season and a new labour agreement would need to be in place by about that time to salvage a 48-game schedule; the minimum in commissioner Gary Bettman’s opinion for the season to proceed.. The New Year’s Day Winter Classic and All-Star Game are already lost.

                                                    Is Gary Bettman in the driver's seat?

The NHL is already the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labour dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout and the NHLPA now appears set to follow the lead set by NFL and NBA players. Both dissolved their unions during lockouts last year. The legality of the lockout is already set to be tried in US federal court after the NHL filed a class-action lawsuit last week against the NHLPA. The NHL also submitted an unfair labour practice charge with the American 'National Labor Relations Board'. The league’s Board of Governors discussed the possibility of a ‘‘disclaimer of interest’’ Dec. 5, and Bettman said the NHL didn’t see it as a significant threat. In fact, he went further with, ‘‘We don’t view it in the same way in terms of its impact as apparently the union may.’’

Personally, i've been to no more than half a dozen games since Toronto sports fans saw the way Don Fehr got Major League Baseball players to strike in 1994 that gutted the Toronto Blue Jays of fan support! Having shared early year's seasons tickets and being one of the lucky 53,000+ folks swinging a 4 millionth fan t-shirt while Joe Carter rounded the bases on his 9th inning winning home run in October '91, my interest hasn't been the same since! Also, I took my boys to a football game, where the largest crowd ever assembled in the SkyDome; since overtaken on August 16, 1997 when the Green Bay Packers demolished the Buffalo Bills 35-3 with almost 55,000 squeezed in.

Sylvester Overturf of Oklaoma City makes a good point in his op-ed in the Toronto Sun when he said he was concerned that negotiations would not go very well when Donald Fehr had been hired as the NHL Players Association executive director but never thought Don would lead the players over a cliff.  Sylvester thinks Don has sold the NHL players on some unrealistic expectations and he must succeed at all costs to protect the reputation he gained as executive director of the MLB players’ union. NHL players need to do a reality check and recognize that 30 financially stable franchises are important for their job security. The first step in returning to reality would be to fire Fehr.

Should it really surprise this bunch of NHL players that this 'negotiation' would end up in the courts? On second thought, isn't that to be expected when you get a couple of lawyers involved!? The NHL players are at a cross-roads in their confrontation with the folks who sign their cheques and if there is dissension in the ranks now, just wait for the sight of the knives pointed at Fehr's back after Christmas holidays are over!

What say you, sports fans?

bio at


Today's tweet.......
Has the damage has been done? and will the knives be out in January?

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