I must admit, I never expected the NHL lockout to last this long.
For those that have listened on Prime Time Sports or HOCKEY CENTRAL, I was a big believer that the game would be back and thriving by now. I thought we would look nostalgically at the months of October and November as vacation time before the settlement. We were supposed to be back by Nov. 23 with an almost-full schedule, a vibrant partnership between players and owners and labour stability for a decade.
Boy, was I wrong.
I also have to admit, I listened to both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr but I didn’t hear them. I didn’t want to hear them. And that’s because I couldn’t believe the game would be taken down this path again. I should have listened better. I should have heard clearer. What the two sides are saying now, they have been saying consistently since July.
They were saying the other side couldn’t be trusted and didn’t want to expedite a new CBA. They were saying it then, and they are saying it now.
And for the past few days, the posturing between the NHL and Players’ Association has returned to full volume. That can only mean one thing: we are nowhere near the end of the lockout, at least for now.
And, just as importantly, when the two sides talk publicly who are they really talking to?
The fans? Why? The fans can’t solve the lockout.
The other side? Why? They don’t trust one thing coming out of other sides’ mouth.
So, who really, are they talking to? Themselves? Maybe.
Both Don Fehr, for 14 minutes, and Bill Daly, for 19 minutes, spoke to our flagship station in Toronto a few days back. That is more time than they’ve spent talking to each other in the last week. And why would that be?
Well, firstly, we asked them to appear. Secondly, I’m not sure what they can say to each other. Neither wants to compromise and both think the other side has been deceiving the public for more than five months.
Both defended their respective positions well on the radio. Daly, with confidence, explained how much the league has really given to a solution and Fehr, who deflects as well as Phil Esposito in his prime, confidently boasted that the players are the only ones who have given.
But, hold on. If they have both given, if both have compromised, why don’t we have a deal like we should have last summer, let alone in November?
It’s because both think they are telling the truth. They both think they’re being true to their constituents. And who are they telling it to? The one group that can’t step in and help solve the problem: the fans.
Compounding the posturing with the pending Disclaimer of Interest, class-action suit and soft deadline and it truly puts the ability of both groups to get a new collective bargaining agreement in jeopardy. It actually makes you wonder if they really do want a new deal, and actually want to get back on the ice.
It really is hard to believe.
But wait, both say they want to play. Do you believe them? Is it true? Somehow, some way, I do.
What I don’t believe is that neither side is prepared to be creative in their approach to getting this deal done. I find it hard to believe that both sides won’t compromise, even just a bit more, to get a deal done. If they won’t do that, then they aren’t telling the truth.
To you. To me. To themselves.
The truth calls for creativity. It calls for compromise.
The truth, like the solution, lies somewhere in the middle.