No other word better describes my feelings about the NHL lockout.
I’ve grown weary of this ridiculous standoff. There’s a deal to be had if the NHL and NHLPA negotiators are willing to compromise just a little more.
Granted, things could be worse, they could be where they were around this time during the last lockout, where they’d barely spoken and no new proposals had been made. Back then, however, we knew they were a long way from a resolution, so nobody had their hopes up.
That they’re so close now, but simply refusing to just collectively take that final step toward a resolution, preferring instead to engage in time-wasting legal one-upmanship, is worse.
Everyone knows it is rubbish when both sides claim they’re still far apart. Everyone knows the PA has conceded on the main sticking points (division of revenue, honoring existing contracts, term limits on contracts), while the league has agreed to leave existing rules on free agency, arbitration and term limit on entry level contracts untouched.
Yes, the players have made the bulk of the concessions, but that was inevitable. No matter how hard the league brain trust tries to “idiot-proof” a new CBA, everyone knows the owners and their general managers – abetted by player agents – will find loopholes. They always do.
The league, on paper, has won, but the players won’t suffer any serious long-term damage to their earning power, and could benefit over the course of the new CBA. They always do.
This lockout has always been unnecessary. Had NHL commissioner Gary Bettman actually tried to repair relations with the players following the last lockout, the current one would’ve been avoided.
Instead, his indifference to the players turned them to former MLB Donald Fehr, ensuring another protracted labor standoff threatening to wipe out another season, risking serious damage to the NHL brand.
The PA at one time had a director (Paul Kelly) who tried to repair the relationship between the two sides. A faction of the players, however, were suspicious of Kelly’s motive, equating his efforts to sleeping with the enemy, and replaced him with a proven fighter in Fehr, who by most accounts is Bettman’s equal at the negotiating table.
So, here we sit, both sides waiting for the other to blink, more time being wasted, another season in jeopardy, and more NHL followers growing disheartened and disinterested.
Who can blame those fans? If I didn’t cover the NHL for a living, I’d also be tuning out this farce. As this is my job, however, I have to follow and report on the ongoing stupidity masquerading as “labor negotiations”.
But I’m tired of watching two sides seemingly bent on mutual destruction. I’m tired of feeling helpless, of my livelihood being threatened, and of my growing disdain for both sides.
Whenever this lockout ends, I will of course continue to cover the NHL, but I will never look at it the same way again. I was cynical following the last lockout, but it faded over time, because I naively assumed another pointless lockout could be avoided.
Not only has my cynicism returned stronger than ever, but I know it won’t fade after this lockout, and it will color my coverage of the league. I understand the NHL is a business, but it’s one which is poorly run, repeatedly alienating its customers.
I’m sure most NHL fans will return when the lockout ends, especially if there’s a season-saving deal, but I now doubt they’ll bring the same fanatical support this time around. We’re growing used to the league – owners as well as players – treating us with disdain, ignoring what we want while they squabble over the money we’ve poured into their coffers.
Most NHL fans probably aren’t at the point of leaving for good just yet, but I daresay a number of them are sick of being taken for granted.
As I’ve said many times, the NHL cannot continue this cycle of staging a lockout following every CBA. At some point, it’s going to take its toll upon the fan base.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to keep track of the latest NHL news for the shrinking number of my readers, whom I don’t blame for not following this site over the course of the lockout. I understand the business of hockey is boring for most, while a lot of them are just sickened by the disgusting spectacle of millionaires squabbling with billionaires.
I’m hoping this will be my last NHL lockout. Once this one ends, I intend to squirrel away as much money as I can for a large contingency fund for the next lockout.
Unless the owners and players finally learn to work together in a true partnership, there will be another lockout. It’s as inevitable as this one, and the two before it.
I’d like to believe those two sides are capable of working together over the course of the next CBA, but after being burned twice, I refuse to be fooled a third time.
I want to be ready for the next lockout -be it seven, eight or ten years from now – so I can take a nice long vacation, and like so many fans, tell the NHL owners and players to wake me when its over.