BY: SCOTT MORRISON, sportsnet.ca
So now the real pain starts to be felt by both sides and the real damage starts to be inflicted everywhere.
With each passing day the owners are losing big time money and the players are now losing big time salaries.
Ironically, since this NHL labour dispute is all about money, even with all that cash flying out the window, it still isn’t enough to inspire an agreement. Not yet, anyway.
Thursday, of course, was supposed to be the start of the new NHL regular season, coming fresh on the heels of Los Angeles, arguably the second most important market, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. It was a high, it was another gust of momentum on which the league was supposed to build on.
Instead, here we are, eight years later, staring into the darkness of another lockout with no apparent end in sight.
It’s curious that while it feels different this time, while there doesn’t seem to be the same animosity, while the two sides are least continuing to talk about secondary issues, the end result is still exactly the same — a standoff, both sides firmly entrenched, with no budge.
And it doesn’t matter it was the owners who closed the doors again, both sides are culpable because a deadline passed and a deal wasn’t consummated. There is no reason to believe, either, that an agreement would be expedited if the games were still going on.
So pick your side in the blame game if you want, but there is enough to amply and justifiably cover both.
Meantime, we sit and wait for someone to blink and it feels very much as though that day is a long ways away, essentially because the two sides are so fundamentally divided on the core economic issues, namely how much and how quickly the players give back to the owners.
And while many have asked the question, why are we in the midst of another lockout when the owners seemingly got everything they wanted last time — a hard salary cap, a 24 per cent rollback in salaries, even the departure of union boss Bob Goodenow — the answer is simple: the system, at least in the owners’ eyes, is flawed. Put simply, their share isn’t enough.
So you have the owners wanting a bigger slice of the pie and the players essentially wanting to maintain their share. And while the standoff continues, presumably the pie shrinks, which is another head-scratching turn of events.
So basically it’s now about the pain threshold — how much can either side endure, how much pain in the pocket book can they take?
The last time we went through this, a season was lost before the players essentially capitulated, only to eventually emerge in a new economic world that benefited most of them, with the average salary increasing by roughly a million dollars over the course of the previous collective bargaining agreement, while revenues grew to a record $3.3 billion.
Who gets what when the lights go back on really doesn’t matter to any of us. Both sides will profit, the games will resume and the fans will come back.
What is most troubling, though, is the only way they seem to be able to get anything done is by staring each other down, by inflicting pain, then waiting to see who blinks first and most often.
Whatever happened to setting a meaningful deadline and negotiating to the best agreement possible? Perhaps that makes me a little naive in my thinking, but I also don’t understand why what is happening now makes good business sense to either side.