NHL vs. NHLPA…Who’s To Blame?

Breaking news: nothing has changed.

That is the situation of the CBA discussions between the NHL owners and the NHLPA. Are you shocked? Does your inner core find solace or anger in any development that arises?

In hindsight…yes, it’s always prevalent. There’s always those who suggest that maybe the two sides should have begun talks earlier. But, from what I’ve read, it couldn’t have made things much better.

Recently, I played the game “Apples to Apples” for the first time in my life. Shocking? Not necessarily, if you know me and have heard I’ve never seen Goonies. In the game, there is a subject card. For sake of argument and pertinence, let’s say Wealth. After this subject is declared, the other players use description cards to designate what closely fits said broad term. It can be as close to the vest as they’d like, or completely random. The spectrum could range from “Happiness” to “Lawn Chair”. That’s only to paint a picture at absurdity. What does wealth mean to those involved? Is more enough? Are they not happy with the profits that bulge hockey-wallets?

It’s a tough answer. These are professionals in a professional business. The New York Yankees have assimilated into a hired gun phase for years and yes, it can work. Verily, hockey is a different beast. The mere fact of best-of-seven series brings stakes to a draw. Shouldn’t Vancouver have just collected a second straight Cup this past summer?

When it comes to numbers, contracts and the misery of collective bargaining agreements, I know little. All I can trust is my gut and my heart. My heart loves the game of hockey. My gut tells me no matter what, I want to see professional hockey being played in America; but I think we’re looking at a short season.

We have the rare probability of seeing a 3rd work stoppage for this game since the 90’s. To me this is unacceptable. However, I can no more lay the blame on any one side than I can climb a ladder and hang Christmas lights on a three story house (again, if you know me, I abhor heights).

Both sides are equally right and wrong. When the NFL and NBA both traversed this road in succession, fan bases went ballistic. Well, not really, because that would suggest that we actually did something about it. But, the unhappiness was there. One couldn’t spend time in a discussion and not hear about “billionaires arguing with multi-millionaires.” I don’t disagree. And that’s why now I’m currently rested atop the proverbial fence.

Just yesterday, the league (more or less) laughed off the NHLPA’s counter-proposal. The owners want player profits cut from 57% down to 43%. This is nothing new. The NHL has experienced something most thought improbable since the lockout that wiped the 04-05 season from fruition: fiscal gains.

The league is making money. The fact that it’s been steadily happening since the lockout, in a country that covets baseball and football first, is extraordinary. The fans’ love has always been there. Even after the changes in gameplay that occurred, it was embraced by the fans.

Fans will forgive.

They also look sharply on team owners as the enemy (scroll to comments). What mustn’t happen is forgetting that these are businesses. The owners aren’t stupid; gains were made relatively across the board. With the few franchises that aren’t generating revenue, it’s no shock they want other teams to make concessions to help.

“Live together, or die alone.”

The tragedy is the blame being put solely on ownership. Whether we like or not, their side IS profit. However, the players can act humble about wanting to achieve the pinnacle moment of winning the Stanley Cup. But, don’t be fooled, they want to be paid as well. I can’t imagine players agreeing to limit contract money and/or durations.

Both sides have valid reasons to argue about profits. There may have been one side taking the brunt of a new deal to end the last lockout, yet the league has flourished regardless. Can the league survive another? Most likely.

One of the reasons I’m proud to write for this website is for you, the reader. The fact is, we’re all fans. We all want to see NHL games start in October. They must value OUR feelings and opinions…


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