I began this post with the intent of speculating over what could be contained in the next NHL CBA which could trigger a future lockout, but only made it about a quarter of a page before giving up.
It’s not writer’s block, as I’ve never had difficulty finding something in the NHL to write about, be it serious or trivial.
Rather, it’s boredom. I’m bored over this pointless NHL lockout.
It’s the same story since the lockout began. Slow-moving negotiations between the league and the NHLPA. The occasional proposal which raises hopes, only to watch them quickly dashed as one side or the other rejects it. Rhetoric follows with each side blaming the other for the “lack of traction”. Negativity flows. And while the two sides creep toward a deal, the league cancels another portion of the season.
I usually find the business of the NHL fascinating, but when it’s the only thing to write about when there’s no NHL hockey being played, eventually the fascination wanes.
I’ve tried to distract myself by watching AHL and QMJHL games, as well the highlights from the KHL, but they’re not the NHL. It’s not the world’s very best players engaged in their lengthy pursuit of the most famous trophy in North American sports.
Frustration is the only feeling I have toward the NHL now. They’re so close to a deal, but moving too slowly toward it, with hardliners on both sides costing valuable time in confrontation, rather than compromise.
That’s the way negotiations go. I covered the last lockout and understand how long it can take. Hopefully, these talks won’t kill a season as the last lockout did.
If the NHL brain trust were genuinely interested in getting back on the ice and repairing the damage to its brand, there would be a deal by now. Hell, if there had been a true partnership between the owners and players, this lockout would’ve been avoided, and we’d be enjoying NHL hockey now.
But this lockout isn’t about establishing a true partnership, or building up the NHL brand. It’s about owners trying to squeeze the players for more of their share of revenue, and the players determined not to give up any more than they already have.
While the two sides battle over the size of their respective shares of the revenue pie, they seem oblivious to how much that pie is shrinking for this season, and possibly beyond if this lockout alienates a sufficient number of fans and sponsors.
Perhaps that can be avoided and the revenue will keep growing, but that might embolden the owners to stage another lockout when the next CBA expires to claw back even more from the players.
If the revenue does shrink, the owners might use that as substantiation to reduce the players share again, claiming they need to save small market teams.
The NHL cannot keep doing this. Each CBA cannot end with a labor standoff. If fan goodwill isn’t tested by this lockout, the next one could do it. Unless the NHL gets its labor house in order by forging a real and enduring partnership with its players, it will reach a tipping point with its fans.
In the meantime, it’s the daily slog through yet another round of NHL CBA headlines and opinions. Decertification is the exciting watchword right now, and it’s certainly worthwhile to examine what the consequences would be if the NHLPA went that route.
I almost wish the players would do it, if for nothing else than to enjoy the excitement of uncertainty injected into this labor standoff.
It would be a significant move by the players. They are creatures of habit who prefer the familiar, even if that entails weeks of lengthy, ponderous negotiations which eventually end with a CBA cutting their share of revenue, but could still benefit them in the long run if big market owners continue their free-spending ways..
While decertification has moved up in the players’ deck, I doubt it’s their top card right now. It’s the threat of playing it they hope will spur the league to be more flexible in negotiations, just as the owners use the loss of paycheques and threats to cancel the season in hope of swaying the players to agree to the NHL’s proposals.
It’s gamesmanship, but no substitute for NHL hockey.
With December fast approaching, hopefully the two sides will get a deal worked out to salvage the rest of this season.
The thought of these negotiations stretching into the New Year isn’t a pleasant one, and I don’t how much more of this tedium I can stand.