In any major labor relations negotiation, there are ups and downs. There are moments of progress, setbacks, angry exchanges, vitriol, and eventually, a resolution. If you read the dozens of articles, listen to the radio, and watch on TV (OK, Canadian TV) and collect all of the news about this negotiation, you might just think the same thing. You'd be wrong.
At no point has anything reported given anyone any reason to be positive, or feel as though anything was going to get done. Sure, there were those calling for everyone to take a collective breath, and to trust the process. Those that said this is normal in negotiation, and those that said the Pollyannas need to zip it and let them work. I challenge you, dear reader, to go back and find anything at all that justified any shred of hope.
You won't find it.
If you're an NHL hockey fan, your time is up, and you may want to go find a new hobby. The NHL and NHLPA are taking their respective ball and going home. No meetings are scheduled between now and the Saturday at midnight eastern time deadline for a deal to be in place. Both sides filled the airwaves with words of blame for the other side, and in a completely non-shocking moment, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman went in front of cameras and made himself look like a patronizing blow-hard.
If you want to read some of the quotes, Mike Russo of the StarTribune has them. You may want some whiskey before you start. If you're at work, you may want to close your door. You're going to cuss at the top of your lungs, you can bet on that.
The question now is not if they can get this done by the 15th, but rather how long will the lockout last and how many games will be lost. Bob McKenzie says the two sides are "not even in the same universe." NHL agent extraordinaire Scott Norton told Forbes that he believes the lockout could last a year and a half. This is all really good news if you're a hockey fan. Well, OK, maybe for hockey fans in Europe, because they're about to get an infusion of talent like they've never seen.
This sucks, you may say. You'd be right. NBA and NFL fans can tell you just how much it sucks. You probably remember how much it sucks, to be honest. 2004-05 wasn't that long long ago. Nor was 1994, the first time Gary Bettman and his band of ego maniacs took the league to an impasse and shut the league down. You'd think the owners might fire the troll and hire someone who can get the job done. But no, they just keep giving him raises, like a school district paying their superintendent six figures to have a district in which 50% of the graduating seniors can't read.
We're off the tracks here.
The point is, Bettman and his crew have to have compromising pictures of someone somewhere. There is simply no way a man as inept as Bettman should be employed at such a high level when the only job he has, to keep the league running, is something he has failed at three times. Good thing this isn't baseball.
The egos on both sides of this fight already know where the finish line is. The same 50-50 split that the NFL and NBA settled on. Even a four year old Brazilian child could tell you that's where this ends up. Yet, we're going to go ahead and lose games, and likely the season, while the powers that be piss away everything they have worked for since 2005.
$3.3 billion in revenues. Massive growth year over year. Their first long term TV partner actually paying the league to carry the games. A trophy that is more recognizable than most celebrities and government leaders. Players making money, owners making money (though they would tell you otherwise), and fans eating out of their collective hands.
Nope. Let's throw that all away and have yet another lockout. Good plan, guys.
The silver lining is, once they settle the economics, everything will be good, and they can get back on the ice. Problem is? Silver linings aren't real. Nor are unicorns. The economics are just one of the issues at play here. Once that is settled, they still need to discuss contract length, rule changes, safety issues, arbitration issues, free agency issues, and any number of smaller concerns. Any of these could derail the talks again.
Oh, and the NHLPA now says they might go after the salary cap, too. That should help get this settled.
Find some plans for the winter, hockey fans. If you asking your humble SB Nation Minnesota Assistant Editor, this season is done for. There is no reason to believe otherwise. The sky is falling, and no one looks ready to put it back up.
Oh happy day.