Wake us up when this nightmare is over: a sentiment shared by more than a few hockey fans during the lockout. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
By Stu Hackel
The NHL cancelled another swath of games on Friday, through Nov. 1. Do you care? Have your eyes just glassed over, your ears become so full of this stuff that the words — well-meaning as they may be — and numbers just bounce right out?
At a certain point in this process of the NHL arriving at a new collective bargaining agreement, a big chunk of fans have just thrown up their hands and said, “I’ve had enough.” The claims and counterclaims, the blizzard of statistics and dollar figures, the same arguments over and over again, the threats and the responses, and the perceived lack of progress all becomes too much. And this week, just when it appeared that there might be some hope of a settlement, the floor dropped out beneath us again and now there is news of more games being axed. No one can be blamed for wanting to get off this roller coaster and let it ride on without them.
And yet…and yet…perhaps there is some light amidst the darkness.
When the owners this week proposed a new deal that, for the first time, said they’d accept a 50-50 split of Hockey Related Revenue, the players agreed on the target. However, they used some other formulas to reach it. Different versions of 50-50? Sounds crazy. Well, no one has ever — ever — said that NHL economics are sane. Still, never in all these months of haggling had the sides reached some sort of rough agreement on the portions each would receive. Now they merely (merely!) need to agree on a formula.
“Good luck with that, guys,” you say, waiving your hand in farewell. “Call me when you’ve got that figured out.”
It could be soon; it could be a long time.
This is the world of collective bargaining, which is certainly not a spectator sport, even if this negotiation is all about spectator sports. The stars of the CBA process don’t really care if you watch them or not; in fact, they probably prefer you don’t. Most of what they do is away from the cameras. But the more you see and the more you pay attention, the more you understand the truth in the famous quote that’s often wrongly attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” The quote and the source may be apocryphal, the sentiment is not. Making the law for NHL labor relations is ugly business, a horror show with blood, bone, muscle and fat strewn and splattered about. It’s not for everyone.