Thursday, February 10, 2005

HORRIBLE DAY IN LABOUR TALKS, POSSIBLY THE END

Here's TSN's story on what happened today. From the sounds of it, it was a total disaster. Talks broke off after only a few hours.

They brought in American mediators to try and get some kind of resolution. But Gary Bettman is hellbent for a salary cap. Bob Goodenow is hellbent against a salary cap. Both sides have been playing up dissention in the other guy's ranks but the fact is that both sides remain as strong as ever. Any hope of a capitulation looks pretty hopeless. NHL Executive VP Bill Daly today told reporters about what a debacle it was today, how the talks were pointless, etc.

On the heels of that, yet another NHLer, the infamous Dany Heatley, announced he's signed with a Russian team. This has to rank as the greatest hockey season in the history of Russia. The Russian fans all must be saying to the NHL "don't ever come back!". In Russian.

What a complete disaster. What a total, total disaster! How is this league going to get a deal done after today? Neither side will move! I think there's no deal to be had! This season's DOOMED. I'm listening to Ted Saskin on the radio right now and he sounds like a beaten man. He sounds like a guy fed up with negotiating and fed up trying to get a deal done, because he knows no deal is going to happen.

It looks to me like both sides are going to give up and go home, that's what it looks like to me. This weekend was meant to be All-Star Weekend, traditionally the showcase for the sport in the United States to kick off their network TV coverage. Instead, it looks like the weekend the league hurls itself, its fans and an entire sport right off the cliff.

The situation now looks about as completely hopeless as you can imagine. Personally, I think it's over. This season's going to be cancelled, we'll have no games at all and no Stanley Cup playoffs. I find it unbelieveable that this league is going to follow the lead of major league baseball, and repeat the same mistake that damaged baseball so severely for so long. Except this time the NHL is going to live in infamy as the first major sports league to cancel a whole season due to labour problems. They haven't learned a darned thing from baseball.

But these two sides think they're the greatest, that their game is the greatest and that anyone who doesn't follow their sport should be ashamed of themselves for not being hockey fans. And the Canadian sports media chides non-hockey fans in the 'States for not following hockey, as if there's something wrong with them. Well, there's a reason why some people aren't fans of this sport. This sport hasn't been fan friendly for years.

The thing that angers me the most is that both sides are taking the fans for granted here, and taking them to the cleaners, and they are both acting as if the gravy train will continue, with the captive audience of hockey fans continuing to shell out hundreds of dollars for NHL tickets. I'm really worried that the NBA, which faces labour negotiations of their own, and major league baseball and the NFL will get ideas from what's going on with the NHL dispute. If the fans really do decide to come back to this pathetic league after this season is cancelled, these other sports might just decide it might be a good idea to conduct labour wars of their own, and disrupt their own sports and hose the fans in unimaginable ways. I'm very worried these leagues, particularly baseball, might follow the NHL script in order to lock out their players, wipe out an entire season, bring in the replacements in order to break the union, and then impose their salary cap. And the fans will get hosed and treated like dirt in the whole process. Personally, I find it hard to believe baseball will ever go that same route, I would hope they've learned their lessons. And I don't think the NBA will ever cancel an entire season; that league is too well-run and they take pride in getting their labour disputes settled.

This has me rethinking whether I want to continue as a sports fan. If I continue as a sports fans I'd better pick some sports to follow which won't be affected by strikes or lockouts. Let's see, there's golf, auto racing, horse racing, boxing, tennis, professional poker (!). And there aren't too many labour disruptions in the sport of soccer, I don't think. Maybe I should simply choose some different sports to follow, because there's lots of sports out there that don't have any of this labour nonsense going on.

Hey, the Daytona 500 is in 10 days.

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