NHL Lockout: Is Ego and Trying to “Win” Negotiations Getting in the Way?

Well, it is now October 15th and here we are…..as you know, for the third time since 1995, the NHL owners have locked out the players.  While some people might get caught up trying to choose sides, I feel the owners and players remain both at fault here, as is normally the case when billionaires fight with millionaires.  I’ll let others try to figure out which side might be more at fault, because the fact is, I don’t really care.  Plain and simple, as I see it, they both share blame for it getting to this point.

Who are the real losers in all this?  The non-millionaires and non-billionaires, such as the face behind Stanley C. Panther, who was laid off by the Florida Panthers last month, and countless others that count on NHL games being played in order to earn a living, such as all of the front office staff, vendors and arena personnel that need the hockey-related income to pay their rent and/or mortgages based on that income will now need to find another alternative, if they even can in a down economy.

And why?  Because owners and players can’t decide on how best to share a league record $3-plus BILLION (yes, BILLION with a B) revenue pool.  But, in reality, the joke may end up ultimately on the players and owners, as all of the time they have wasted by alienating the paying customer (i.e. THE FAN), has given fans time to figure out where else they can spend their hard earned money.  It has allowed big cash-spending corporations that whine and dine clients to find an alternate avenue for those entertainment dollars.  Last lockout, there was some sympathy for a system that found itself flawed and needed fixing.  This time, it seems more apparent that the owners can’t control themselves and that the NHLPA is too busy trying to take the high moral ground. Not only have the sides solved the problems, both are giving the impression they are too concerned with trying to show their resolve to the public and try to “win” the negotiation, rather than concerning themselves with the bigger picture.

I had a US history professor back when I was taking a “Development of the United States” history class when I was at Rutgers University.  He would always talk about Henry Clay, the Kentucky senator and former Secretary of State from the 1800′s.  The professor would always refer to Clay as “the man who would rather be right, than be President,” implying how Clay would get too caught up in the details and his ego, rather than perhaps taking a step back and looking at the big picture, costing him the chance at the Presidency.  Compare the case of Henry Clay to that of Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA head Donald Fehr and you begin to see both now may be a little too caught up in trying to “win” the negotiation, rather than focusing on what it might take to get the league back playing again.  Beyond that, the more they fight, the pool of money continues to most likely decline, meaning they are probably biting their nose to spite their face so to speak.  And despite the potential impact of the lockout, neither side has been making offers or even seemingly having any real negotiations on the most important issues.

When you add it all up, the fans continue to being taken for granted here.  I’d love to say there’s a way for the fans to “strike back” and protest to remind both the owners and NHLPA where their revenue dollars come from.  I just don’t see a chance this could actually be pulled off, as much as I’d love to be proven wrong.  Anyhow, this past weekend should have been all about Opening Night festivities and thinking about what might transpire in the season ahead.  Maybe Donald Fehr and the NHLPA and Gary Bettman and the NHL will get it together, leave their egos out of the mix, sit down and get a deal done for the good of the owners, players, workers, and paying customers.  If the league is dumb enough to have its third lockout in 17 years, it isn’t dumb enough to cancel it’s second season in seven years, is it?  After seeing what we’ve seen thus far, I’m not sure if they are or aren’t that dumb, unfortunately time will ultimately tell.

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