Inside The NHL Lockout Negotiations (What We Think Might Be Happening, Anyway)

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League speaks to the media at Crowne Plaza Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The NHL and NHLPA don't seem to be talking about any lockout negotiations. Consequently, we're forced to imagine what league commissioner Gary Bettman and player's association head Don Fehr are doing.

Well, it's Day 6 of the NHL Lockout. The NHL has canceled all scheduled preseason games through September 30. Players are leaving for European teams. Those still in Minnesota have to work out on their own. Naturally, the league and the players' union are in frantic negotiations, trying to rescue a season that's on the verge of being dramatically affected by a labor stoppage.

Ha ha! We like a little joke, here at SB Nation Minnesota. OF COURSE the league and the NHLPA haven't been negotiating. Instead, both sides are sitting around like jilted middle-schoolers, refusing to be the first to pick up the phone. And so in nearly a week, we've had no movement from either side towards the beginning of an NHL season.

With this in mind, we thought we'd take a look at what we figure both sides are doing. It probably looks a little something like this...

SCENE: NHL Headquarters. Late afternoon. Commissioner Gary Bettman stands at a floor-to-ceiling window, looking across New York as if trying to convey great leadership. As a hindrance to this, he is wearing a cape made from a bedsheet, and a hat of his own devising that appears to be a cross between a Revolutionary War tricorner and a disused Phoenix Coyotes toque. He mutters to himself.

BETTMAN (muttering): Surely, the rebels must soon give in.

The door opens. An intern enters, wearing a Quebec Nordiques jersey to show his low rank.

BETTMAN: Ah, private! You must be here to give me the afternoon report. How goes the war?

PRIVATE NORDIQUE: Uh, we're not in a war, sir. Public relations sent me in here to talk to you about maybe doing a few interviews about the lockout.

BETTMAN: Don't use that word!

PRIVATE NORDIQUE: Uh, right, sorry. A few interviews about this "terrorist situation."

BETTMAN: I'm sorry, but I just don't see the need. From what I gather, we're winning the hearts and minds of fans without any effort, yet again! The media wouldn't cross me, of course, they're in my pocket - no, I'm afraid that we won't needing any further propaganda campaigns to win this war.

PRIVATE NORDIQUE: Sorry, but where are you getting this? The media thinks you're awful. Everyone thinks you and the owners are entirely at fault for this. And the fans hate you. You get booed wherever you go. You aren't even allowed in Canada any more because you're on a watch list.

BETTMAN: They aren't booing! They're saying "BETTMAN!"

PRIVATE NORDIQUE: That makes no sense. Listen, Gary, you need to do something about this, and soon. People are getting antsy. Don Cherry drove a Zamboni into the front desk yesterday, he was so mad.


PRIVATE NORDIQUE: Did you just call me "Maurice Richard's little cheese?"





SCENE: NHLPA Headquarters in Toronto. A janitor descends a dark concrete staircase that leads into what appears to be a cellar. Dripping water is heard from a not-quite-identifiable location. A single 25-watt light bulb illuminates Don Fehr, who sits, alone, on an old folding chair.

JANITOR: You need anything, Mr. Fehr? Maybe you want to come out of there? People are starting to ask after you. People are starting to worry.

FEHR: Oh, no, Winston. I'm fine.

JANITOR: For the eighteenth time, my name's Earl.

FEHR: Of course it is, Winston. (to himself) Such a faithful servant, one could not possibly find a better valet than young Winston...

JANITOR: You feeling all right there, Mr. Fehr?

FEHR (waving hand dismissively): Of course, of course, no troubles. Tell me, how are things on... the surface?

JANITOR: Well, not so good. The fans are pretty mad. They're on your side for the time being, but mostly they just want hockey to start.

FEHR: Good, good. Things are all proceeding quite pleasantly with my plan.

JANITOR: Wait, this is your plan?

FEHR: Of course, dear Winston! Surely I must have laid out the details of my plan before. First, we make sure our statements include backyard rinks, and peewee hockey, and other such love-of-the-game-type cliches. And then when the sympathies of fans are assured, the owners come crawling back! They negotiate on our terms. The salary cap? It disappears, my dear boy, just disappears! 57% of revenues is nothing - they'll offer us 75% soon! The owners will be bankrupt and I'll be a hero to players and fans alike, and EVERYONE will KNOW THE NAME OF FEHR!

JANITOR: Uh... that's just never, ever going to happen.

FEHR: Nonsense, my dear man! Now, please leave me, my eyes grow weary in this bright light. You mark my words, Winston. Gary Bettman will come crawling down those stairs, oh yes he will. He will, or my name isn't Don Fehr.

JANITOR: Oh geez.

The janitor flicks the light off and ascends the stairs. He heads to his workshop, tucked near the loading dock, where he turns on a small TV that's virtually buried in a pile of junk.

JANITOR (happily): Hey, college hockey's on!

He hums to himself as he turns to a few projects on his workbench. As he gets busy, he gradually forgets about his strange conversation with Fehr - and indeed, seems to forget that the NHL exists at all.

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