Tomorrow night, before SNL airs its new post-Weekend Update attempt at an annoying recurring character, Gary Bettman will insert a fatal speedball into the NHL’s 2012-2013 season. At the behest of his carefully selected and well-heeled Board of Governors, Bettman is further following the footsteps of his mentor Donald Sterns (you know, that whole “need two Siths” thing) and decided that he’s gonna wield as much fucking power as he wants because, hey, what the fuck are you gonna do about it? (What? You really think the owners voted 30-0 in favor of a lockout? Want 50% stake in the Tobin?)
I don’t want to write about numbers or escrow or rollbacks or hard caps anymore than you want to read about them. But just know this: all of the blood for the third lockout on Gary Bettman’s watch is on both his and the owners’ hands. This is wholly preventable but the owners, after getting the system they wanted, no, demanded, seven years ago, want to blow it all up again for their further financial gain.
After the last time the NHL locked the doors, they treated the players like the rednecks treated Bobby in “Deliverance” and won huge concessions from the players. What happened next? The league, thanks to less obstruction and arguably the best collection of young talent ever, thrived like never before. Revenues rose billions of dollars in record time and every should have been making money. But because some owners either can’t, don’t, or won’t run their ship right (or their team is in a place where it‘s not able to), the NHL wants players to once again make ridiculous concessions because the teams that these several of these same owners made hundreds of millions of dollars in expansion fees from are now floundering and not built for long-term success. Now? The owners want to roll out the pinball machine and give the players the Sarah Tobias treatment. Fucking shameful.
The owners are basically like spoiled, entitled, dysfunctional Kennedy kids who fuck off and pull their puds and do reckless shit because they can but then find themselves up shit’s creek. But then they just rely on Joe Sr. (Bettman) to bail them out yet again. And the fans? We’re the interns and secretaries and actresses and coeds that become the collateral damage along the way—fucked and then dumped off to the side with nary a care.
The NHLPA paid dearly before. They’re willing to make concessions now. They’re 100% in the right. They’re willing to play under the current CBA just so they DON’T HAVE TO CANCEL THE FUCKING SEASON. But the owners don’t want that. Fuck you, pay me.
Owners set current market. And they couldn’t approve expansion franchises quick enough (the same franchises that are at the crux of the problem right now) so that they could get their greasy mitts on the expansion fees. This is a problem completely of their creation yet they want to players to take the hit. Incredibly, they’re still handing out ridiculous contracts just hours before they try to fight them.
The players will need to stand strong and hope to wait the owners out. Right now, there’s no reason to think they can’t. The smarter/richer guys prepared well ahead of time. But others? These guys aren’t afraid of work. They’ll do skating clinics, Europe, demo work, KHL, shovel shit, whatever. As mostly Canadian boys of hard-working stock, they’ll do what they need to do to keep the bills paid. They just need for those first several games to peel off the calendar, when owners start feeling the pinch of missing the gate money, the food money, the merch money, the TV money, the Winter Classic loot. The guys building $15M fifth houses on waterfront Dartmouth estates can ride it out. But when half-to-two-thirds of his peers are begging to make a deal and the players are firmly resolute, well, that’s when then the rubber meets the road.
If the players hold firm, the owners will blink eventually. Will it suck for hockey fans? Yeah, of course. But some things aren’t just worth fighting for, they need to be fought for. For the NHLPA, this is that time.
They’re not being greedy. This isn’t “millionaires vs. billionaires”. These guys aren’t pampered stars living the life of a hip-hop video. The road life is a non-stop fucking grind of travel, practice, downtime, and beating the shit out of their bodies. They deserve every cent they get (well, most of them) and, after taxes, agents, lawyers, etc., they don’t take home nearly what you think. They’re the most elite athletes on the planet simply looking to continue working and are willing to take less even though they’ve done nothing wrong and the money is pouring in.
Hopefully, the players find some semblance of victory and owners, seeing the folly of their increasingly arrogant figurehead’s incompetence in preventing work stoppages, will kick him to the curb before he festers, becomes the next Stern, and starts nixing trades with the wave of a hand. Bettman said the cap would bring down ticket prices. Mine have gone from $28 to $45 in just 3 years. He also said the league was going to make sure that the NBCSN would start appearing in hotel rooms. That hasn’t happened either. The guy’s a full of shit lawyer that can’t be trusted and regardless of how this shakes out, three lockouts in one tenure is three too many and it’s time for him to go.
Here’s a few numbered buds for your lockout bowl. Be sure to stock up.
100%. How much the fault of the lockout falls on Bettman and the owners.
Untold millions. How much money that ushers, bar owners, hot dog vendors, restaurants, waitresses, building maintenance, bartenders, police, stores, and thousands of others will lose out on.
Several dozen. Alternate hockey options in New England this fall/winter. Drive down to Providence to see the P-Bruins or resurgent Friars. Or over to Comm Ave. to see Bs draft pick Matt Grzelcyk begin his college career for BU. Or up 93 to either Lowell or Manchester to see the locked-out stars of tomorrow. Central and Western Mass Stoolies also have plenty of AHL options in Woo-town, the Dirty (Springfield), and Hartford (the Dirtier?).
0. How much money you’ll blow on $9 piss-warm beer. Also, how many fucks the owners care about the fans.
180. Dollars I won’t have to waste on awful preseason games that I’m forced to buy as a season ticket holder.
1/1/2013. When to expect to see the next NHL game. Hey, it worked for the NBA last year.