Lockout Musings: It's Time To Put Up Or Shut Up
As I read the news last evening that government mediators were asked to step into the negotiations between the Gary Bettman-led owners and the Donald Fehr-led players, I got to thinking about some things.
The longer this lockout drags on, the more of a joke the National Hockey League becomes. Bettman has been at the helm for four work stoppages in the last 20 years, and the results of each haven’t been overly promising.
The idea of a lockout is to improve the game by means of negotiations but this time around, it seems like there is less negotiation and more hardlining.
And now some thoughts…
- “While we have no particular level of expectation going into this process, we welcome a new approach,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, according to The Globe and Mail. Doesn’t sound like the remarks of someone who is willing to budge on his stance, does it?
- NHL owners are unwilling to move on the economics of the game, which begs the question, why consider introducing mediators to the equation?
- Bettman, Daly, and the league’s owners should take a step back and look in the mirror. After all, it was their overwhelming victory in the 2004-05 lockout that set up the NHL for the supposed economic issues up for debate today.
- Speaking of owners looking in the mirror, if the economics of the NHL have grown so out of whack, isn’t it they who have created this mess?
- Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold was on record in April saying, “We’re not making money, and that’s one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we’re spending right now. [The Wild’s] revenues are fine. We’re down a little bit in attendance, but we’re up in sponsorships, we’re up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we’re generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild’s] biggest expense by far is player salaries.”
- And yet Leipold gave his approval for Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher to shell out $200+ million in contracts to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the top two free agents on the market this past summer, but hardly two of the top five players as their $12 million salaries or top-nine players as their $7,538,462 cap hits would indicate. (Numbers via CapGeek.com)
- If Leipold’s biggest expense is player salaries, why was he so willing to add two $100+ million “burdens?”
- Beyond that, with a lockout looming, why was Bettman okay with his owners driving up the prices for players by means of bidding wars? If the goal of the lockout is to reduce expenses, wouldn’t it have made much more sense to encourage owners to sign players to reasonable contracts?
- And if said responsible contracts were signed, might fan support be a bit more in favor of the owners, who were the “good guys” last time around, but clearly are the “villains” at present?
- Then again, I wonder if the owners (or the players, for that matter) really care whose side the fans are on. The longer this lockout extends – and it’s looking increasingly like it will cost us the full season – the more all parties involved are proving their lack of care for anything other than the lining of their own wallets.
- Unfortunately, those in the driver’s seat (the owners) have much deeper pockets that are lined through other lucrative business endeavors. The players? Well, they make their money exclusively through hockey (and, on a small scale, hockey-related promotion contracts).
- In other words, the owners are much more equipped to sit back and take a financial hit than the players are.
- That said, the NHL is said to be losing between $18 and $20 million per day. For a league that’s so concerned about finances, wouldn’t it make sense to get serious and negotiate a deal that is mutually beneficial for the owners and players?
- It’s time this childish bickering, posturing, and flat out lying end. The longer this lockout lasts, the more fans the NHL will lose, many of whom may choose never to come back.
- So, the big question, how much will this lockout actually benefit the NHL financially? My guess is it will harm the game more than it will help it.
- Let’s see how owners feel about their pocket books when their arenas are half full, merchandise sales are plummeting, TV ratings/sponsorships are down, and TV broadcast contracts are a fraction of what they are today. My guess is few will admit the mistake that was the 2012-13 lockout, but most will privately regret it.