Monday, December 13, 2004

OWNERS TO PLAYERS:DROP DEAD!

TSN is reporting that they have obtained a confidential memorandum from the NHL written by Bill Daly, NHL Veep, which indicated the NHL is going to reject the NHLPA offer and respond with a counter-offer.

The memo basically asserts that while the NHLPA proposal would save the league money in the short term, the savings would be basically gone in only a couple of years and we'd all be back to square one.

Actually I think I agree with the NHL on that one- I just don't see luxury taxes working. You think the New York Rangers are gonna care about a luxury tax? Look at major league baseball- George Steinbrenner doesn't care about luxury taxes. The CFL teams don't care about luxury taxes, they go over budget all the time. Bob Goodenow is asking the NHL owners to take a leap of faith and believe in a luxury tax when the fact is that several NHL teams- all the usual suspects, the Red Wings and Avalanche andthe Stars and the Flyers and the Leafs et al- spend like there's no tomorrow on hockey players. OK, so they take a pay cut this year. Big deal, what about next year and the year after that. That's what the NHL seems to be saying.

There's a meeting tomorrow with the NHLPA in which the NHL is expected to deliver its counteroffer tomorrow, which I doubt will be accepted. The union has been adamant about saying no to a salary cap. They've gone to extreme measures- offering a massive pay cut!- to avoid a salary cap. If the NHL comes back with a salary cap proposal there is no deal and no hockey. I am absolutely convinced of this now.

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There's another thing about that NHLPA proposal from last week that I need to talk about and that is: I think this was a last-ditch PR move to try and put the pressure on the owners to get a deal done, and produce some sympathy for the players. It was a move designed to sway public opinion and make these owners a little nervous about the consequences of washing out an entire season.

I've written this before: you get this feeling from among the owners that they believe the fans are 1000% behind them. Therefore the owners feel they can kill an entire season off without repercussion. The owners feel they can demand a salary cap because they feel the fans are blaming the players for the dispute, and will return in full force no matter what. Canadian fans feel cancelling the season will be about improving the game; meanwhile Americans don't care about hockey except for the diehards who'll be back anyway, so no loss. And that's why they feel they can get away with murder. WE CHUMP FANS ARE LETTING THESE GUYS OFF THE HOOK.

I feel that by coming up with that 24% salary cut proposal, the players tried to put the PR pressure on the owners and make the players look like a bunch of reasonable guys. To a large extent they succeeded: their proposal was very well received in the media. And it had to make some of these owners think about whether the fans would return to their sport.

But in the end it didn't move the mountain. The owners are going to simply come back with their usual party line, and there's mass apathy out there right now so the owners feel they can get away with it. Despite all those Molson Canadian ads with fans moaning about no hockey, the truth is that the fans are too busy following the National FOOTBALL League to really care about the NHL... even in Canada. And so the owners don't feel any pressure from the fans to get hockey playing again, and feel they can get away with using and abusing the fans to the Nth degree regardless of the consequences. These owners obviously haven't learned from major league baseball. And for the players, refusing a salary cap is a matter of pride.

So I think the whole NHL season is now likely to fall completely apart and even though I had been an optimist all through this, thinking that at crunch time these bozos would come to their senses, the fact is that we're at crunch time, and no one feels any pressure to get any deal done at all. These people, all of them, are taking the fans for granted, as if they will always be there no matter how bad the ticket prices are, no matter how bad the TV deals are, no matter how boring or violent the game is on the ice.

And you wonder why the NFL and NASCAR are so popular. You wonder why the WWE is such a hit. Doesn't take a brain surgeon, ladies and gentlemen. I mean, even baseball gives a hoot about the fans these days. They at least are looking at ways to clean up their act in the wake of this big steroid doping scandal they have on their hands. Why? Because they know their sport is still in the doghouse because of 1994! But does anyone in big-league hockey care about their own fans? NO!!! Simple answer.

OK, maybe Brendan Shanahan cares. But that's about it- you can count the number of people on your fingers. And that, my friends, is why the sport of hockey is floundering so badly. The NHL needs a dose of humility. They need to remember the fans. And you can't convince me that killing an entire season will be good for the fans.

Well, if these idiots kill off the season I hope the fans send this sport right into the doghouse for a good few years. It would serve all these people right.

One last point I should bring up- a lot of people are already saying on the radio that it looks like the season is done. Not necessarily. It depends on what the players do, now, again. I'll tell you what I think will happen, I think they are probably going to walk out in disgust. I really think these owners are as hardline as they get. We'll see tomorrow.

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