Sunday, February 20, 2005

LAST WORD ON THE NHL MESS

Well, now that the NHL season is finally toast, I've decided to move on with my life. Thank heavens this is over. We all need a cooling off period, especially the negotiators.

How could so many of those media monkeys have been so WRONG?! The Hockey News basically announced that there was a deal. ESPN even reported on their website that there was a tentative deal. Everyone from Bob McCown on down bolixed this story right up.

And yet Bob McCown and the rest of them weren't all totally wrong. There were things happening. There was an attempt to save the season, the only problem is that a lot of hockey people got carried away and basically announced the deal was done, even though it wasn't. This was the hockey media's version of Florida. They all look like complete incompetents today, especially everyone at the Hockey News. They must all be really embarrassed over there, because they broke this phony deal story.

I think in retrospect it's easy to figure out what happened in the final few days before that Saturday debacle. I think it was a case where everyone was in complete denial that they had driven their own sport off a cliff. The two sides all hoped the other side would cave in, and that's why they called that meeting. And the media people all made more of the meeting than was merited. They all thought cooler heads were going to prevail and there would be a compromise, and they all jumped the gun and broke the story of a deal, just so they could look like they got the scoop and were big heroes. I tuned into Fox Sports Radio last night and they were talking about what happened, and they mentioned that Wayne Gretzky learned that a tentative deal was being reported, and he hadn't even spoken to anyone yet, he had just gotten off the plane. Trevor Linden later said that too much was being made of these meetings, and same for a lot of people. Looks to me like another case of the hockey media going overboard again. Keep in mind, these are the same people who go nuts over trade rumors and who hold big freaking trade-deadline specials. I remember the night the entire Toronto sports media were going nuts over Eric Lindros trade rumors to the Maple Leafs, and of course it never happened. So it's obvious to me that they blew things out of proportion.

I also happen to think that the rumors of a deal were management-driven. I think management types let their friends in the media know that they were going to make another attempt, and if you noticed, a lot of the people trying to get the season re-started came from management. It was Gretzky and Lemieux, two owners, who were said to be spearheading it. But I don't know if they were going to make a deal at 45. I heard a lot of management-type pro-ownership people on the radio (the usual suspects, Bill Watters and Brian Burke and the rest) and they were still saying the players ought to cave in and accept 42.5, even as all the stories were circulating that Gretzky and Lemieux were trying to get some deal done. So I think the owners were planning to hold to their party line of 42.5 all along. I think they really, truly thought the players were cracking and going to cave in and accept it.

As for the rumors of player agents getting involved and rebel players breaking from their own union and sandbagging Goodenow and negotiating behind his back, well, we all know now that all those rumors were all complete rubbish. All of it!!! I don't know where those reports came from unless there were people out there inventing stuff for some reason. I don't know who it was or where this came from, but shame on whoever it was who spread these lies to the media. They made Howard Berger and Bob McCown and all the rest of the people stuck covering these talks look like fools. I thought maybe it was management types who might be spreading these stories in order to undermine the union and get Goodenow fired, but it doesn't make any sense for management to spread rumors that they were going to accept a deal at 45, because they didn't want a cap at all at 45. And union guys like Mike Gartner were telling people Goodenow's job was safe, that no one was out to undermine him. So I don't know who the heck invented this stuff or where it came from. Maybe these higher-up sources were completely speculating what might happen, and the media turned around and treated it like the Gospel. I think this may have been the case.

The entire hockey media in Canada were running every rumor that was out there, because nobody could believe a word that was uttered from the leadership. The negotiators kept on lying about whether they would be meeting and lying about whether there was any progress. The union said they'd never accept a cap and then they turned around and agreed to it. The owners said they'd never go above 40 and that the players would never get a better deal, and what happens, they offer them a better deal! So as a result, Gary Bettman announces he's canceling the entire season and nobody believes that, either. As a result, all the hockey reporters have no choice but to report every rumor out there, because nobody knew what to believe. And the fans are left in agony for three full days after the official cancellation of the NHL season, all of them told to get their hopes up, even though they announced there was no season!

Man, I've never seen a week like this. This has to have been the most embarrassing public relations debacle the National Hockey League has ever had. I agree with the people who say these guys looked like the Keystone Cops. Their dealing this week looked like complete ineptitude.

And everyone's credibility is down the chute. I have a suggestion to the owners and players. In the future, start being honest and forthright with reporters. If you're holding a meeting, for gosh sakes tell them, don't lie about it and say no meetings are planned. That's why what happened this week happened. Nobody believed anyone, so they simply reported rumors and hoped it was the truth, because heck, they didn't what the heck was true or not, and there was intense demand for information. The public wanted to know every rumor out there, so they had no choice but to report all this bull.

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There is one other theory that could have some credibility. Maybe there were owners out there willing to compromise at 45, and maybe people were out there coming up with a compromise plan, but they all got sandbagged at the last minute by the smaller market teams. The speculation on the radio shows yesterday was that the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers were dead-set against a cap at 45 and that's what scuttled the deal. The big hawks were dead-set against any compromise from 42.5 and that's why it got killed: they had veto power in this whole setup. So maybe there were attempts made but these smaller clubs sandbagged the talks before they even began. I had thought that maybe a couple of the smaller clubs might have broken ranks to sandbag Florida and Nashville and do a deal, but no one did.

I know people in Toronto are mad at Nashville and Florida for scuttling Canada's sport, but keep in mind Edmonton was probably not happy either. And ditto for Calgary. They probably also scuttled this deal, too.

Anyway, I hope someone does some digging to determine what was really going on these last few days, and figures out how these bogus, phony stories got started. The hockey media looks like they have been truly taken for a ride. They not only have egg on their faces but omelette all over their suits.

Before I go I'm going to say that I'm really fed up with the NHL, these fools have ruined the entire sport and when they come back I will make them pay. I was listening to Norm Rumack on the radio and he's still convinced that hockey fans will be so delighted to see the NHL return that they will come back in droves when they finally do come back. He also probably thinks the arenas will be filled to watch replacement players. And Bill Hayes got into a big argument with him, told Norm he was through with the NHL and cancelling his season's tickets. You know, there's lots of people who feel this way. They're FURIOUS with the people who are in charge of this sport. This NHL has made a spectacle of itself already, worse than anything baseball ever did to the fans. You'd have to think a lot of hockey fans are rethinking their allegiances today.

This is the moment of truth for all these Leaf fans who claimed to disown the Blue Jays and major league baseball because of the 1994 strike. They all say they never go to Jays games because the ticket prices are too high and they disrespected the fans in 1994. Well, are the fans going to turn around and disown the Leafs now? If they don't, they're gluttons for punishment and complete hypocrites. If they really believe their own line of bull, they should all disown the NHL and fill the Rogers Centre for Toronto Argonaut football games. Hey, the Argos never cancelled their season, their ticket prices are reasonable, their players aren't overpaid bums, and they won the Grey Cup.

So if the Toronto fans don't go to Argo games and go right back to paying a fortune to see the Leafs, then they really have no excuse and no one to blame but themselves. These diehard Leaf fans who can't wait to go back and waste their money on NHL games are a bunch of goofballs.

Enough of the NHL. I'm not going to bother with these total fools anymore, at least for a while. Anyway, the good news is that my time is now freed up to follow basketball and NASCAR full-time. I'm spending my Saturday nights listening to basketball games on the radio. I know it's terrible to be reduced to following American sports, but there are Canadians who do play basketball...and auto racing, which is on today. Boogity boogity boogity, let's go racing! (What a hokey line that is.)

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