MONTREAL, QC — There’s no lockout, yet. But I’m already tired of hearing about it. If you lived through the 2004-’05 lockout, you’re not eager to repeat the experience. If this is your first time, a lockout virginity is not exactly the type of virginity you want to lose.
For now, the NHL and NHLPA are negotiating a new CBA. Perhaps you’ve heard about this?
The League made promises to me eight years ago. They told me they needed to restructure their business. They told me they needed to fix the game so it could grow and prosper. They told me ticket prices would go down. Today, they’re telling me that the CBA they crafted no longer works for them. Oh, and ticket prices have gone up more than 30 percent.
So this time around, I’m not inclined to support them. When revenues exceed $ 3B, when Minnesota wins free agency, when sponsorship increases by over $ 400M, and they come out and cry poor, I have the reflex to give them a very rude Italian hand gesture. And I’m not even Italian.
The players collapsed last time. They gave up a lot, we all see it now. They seem better represented this time, and a very united group. They haven’t had to do much to get public opinion on their side. In a recent conversation with my colleague Steve, I told him I was all in with the players. I was insulted by the league’s first proposal. Money issues aside, it’s the almost complete removal of all the players’ contract negotiation rights that got me all cranky.
The NHLPA chose a different approach with their first offer. They disregarded the league’s offer and came up with what they called their “alternative” proposal. Was it perfect? No. But at least it showed good faith.
This is just the beginning of what is shaping up to be a very long process. Bettman has ‘won’ every negotiation he’s been involved with. But so has Fehr. This will be a fight to the death, punctuated with ego outbursts and calm, methodically chosen words to the press.
No matter who I side with, my opinion doesn’t count for anything.
I’m just a fan.
Sure, I pay $250 yearly for NHL Center Ice so I can watch as many games as humanly possible. I buy jerseys. I buy tickets. I pay $12.50 for a beer. I write about the game, I discuss the game, I analyse the game, I love the game. But I’m just a fan. And I feel left out.
When the last lockout hit, there was a big boom of poker programming on the various sports networks. Boy, that was exciting. No offense to poker players, but you’re not exactly elite athletes. Sure, you must get the occasional arse cramp and your posture is probably ruined for life, but still. So I wonder what they have in store for us this time around. Maybe we could all get together on Saturday night to watch Blackjack? Or roulette?
So, Steve, I’ve changed my mind. I’m siding with the fans. The ones who paint their faces and decorate their childhood bedrooms with their team colors. The ones who plan their vacation so they can attend a game. The ones who budget a game ticket. The passionate. The dedicated. The silent partners. The true purveyors of this league, who stand to lose the most: The Fans.
Stick tap to Matthew Cauz ( @mcauz56 ) for inspiring this post.