All Quiet on the Frozen Front


Today, the forty-first day of this dreadful lockout, we are still no closer to enjoying the sport that we all love. As the deadline for the hope of a full 82 game season came and went on Thursday, and we officially lost 26.5% of our season, hockey fans are still left with their hands in the air.

September 13, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

To make matters worse, the NHL has officially withdrawn their latest proposal to the NHLPA. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said earlier today,

"“The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action. By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to Player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game Regular Season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.”"

From where I am seated, which is in front of my computer instead of in front of my television waiting for the Lightning vs. Sabres game to start at 7 pm,  this sounds like a stab pointed squarely at the NHLPA in another round of the blame game. Now, I have attempted throughout these proceedings to have a neutral stance on the matter. As I have said before, there are going to have to be concessions on both sides of the table before anything is going seriously progress. However, at this stage in the game, I find myself starting to lose that glimmer of hope that I have held on to for so long.

Daly continued by saying,

"“We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the Players and the Clubs — one that will be good for the game and our fans.”"

I firmly believe that what is good for the game, as well as the fans, is one in the same. This is plain and simple answer; a hockey season. If there is no hockey season, there is no Hockey-Related Revenue to bicker over. There are no paychecks to collect, and worst of all, there are no screaming fans in the stands.

In response to the NHL’s withdraw of it’s previous proposal, the NHLPA’s Executive Director Don Fehr released the following statement.

"“The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular season games. This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise.Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a “take-it-or-leave-it” proposal. We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.The message from the owners seems to be: if you don’t give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking. They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon.”"

September 12, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NHLPA executive director Don Fehr (center) flanked by Vancouver Canucks player Manny Malhotra (left) and Winnipeg Jets player Ron Hainsey (right) during a press conference at the 2012 NHLPA summer player meetings at the Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

It is this sort of back and forth that has brought it to the point that the fans themselves are finding themselves disconnected from the game. Lightning fan Chris Fields has been attending 10 or more Tampa Bay Lightning games a year for many years. This will be his second year as a Season Ticket Holder. He had this to say about the NHL Lockout.

"“If the NHL and the players truly cared about the fans and their communities, they would stop this now. The owners and employees of the businesses surrounding the venues don’t get to tell their bill collectors ‘I’ll have your money once the lockout is over.’ It is really difficult to continue to support sports when millionaires and billionaires argue over who gets more when you spend your life living paycheck to paycheck. I just want my hockey.”"

There have been no new discussions between the NHL and the NHLPA to further negotiations. In fact, the last time that they met in person was on October 18th. A fact that I find rather funny is that the NHL said that they would meet with the players at any time. Why do I find this funny? Because earlier this week when the NHLPA requested a meeting, and they were turned away under the reasoning that there would be no use in even meeting without preconditions. They rejected the multiple counter proposals laid out by the Union, even though they were very similar in regards to the dreaded HRR, because they did not work off of the proposal handed down by the league. My question is, why should the players have to change their proposal to fit the league’s needs, yet the NHL is not asked to alter theirs? Furthermore, all parties involved knew that the time would come when decisions would have to be made, and the CBA would have to be drafted. Why did they wait so long to begin discussions on a matter that very well could have been resolved before the playoffs even ended?

This lockout has been referred to in many different manners. The one I see most referenced is that of a Circus Sideshow. This doesn’t bode well for any of us; the NHL, the players, owners, or even the fans. It puts a huge black mark on our beautiful sport. Unfortunately, until both sides sit down, get serious, and hammer out their differences, Lightning fans like Chris Fields are going to be left to drown in the silence with a hole in their hearts waiting for their chance to cheer for their beloved team once more.