Thursday, February 17, 2005

No Hockey, No Cry

A complete and utter lie on my part.

I am fucking appalled at the decimation of the NHL season yesterday.

In my Urgemagnet ( column, I write about how "If I Ran the NHL." I don't know much about business. And I really don't want to run the NHL, I don't think I could do a very good job. I reall just write the column to explore amusing - facetious, even -possibilities. What if hockey drafting was locally focussed? What if fighting was a strategically mandated part of the game? What if the league bit the bullet and switched to international ice dimensions? Blah blah blah blah. Musings for fun's sake and very little attention to the reality of the impact on the game... which I am beginning to suspect is Gary Bettman's approach as well.

I think the players are being fools. I think that cost-certainty and a salary cap are the inevitable future of the game and trying to hold it off is as short-sighted as musicians who are fighting the world of P2P sharing, rather than finding a new way in a new economy. Bettman is absolutely right; by allowing the situation to get to this stage, the players have ensured that they are now negotiating in a world where cost-certainty is going to be a necessity of any future C.B.A.
He is bang on about the fact that there is no way of knowing what this is now going to do to franchise and league values. A franchise $1.49 cannot afford a 42 million salary cap. I exaggerate, of course, but the point remains the same.

The players may be fools, but Bettman may as well have concluded his press conference on Wednesday with "...and as a result of my failure to see this through to an agreement, I cannot conscionably continue in the position of Commissioner of the NHL." ...or words to that effect. He has lost the owners an outrageous amount of money - utterly outreageous. Fairweather fans have shown their true colours, and die-hard fans are either angry or despondent. It is ALL bad.

There is simply no excuse. Perhaps it was a losing proposition from square one, but I can't imagine that there wasn't some way that Bettman could have headed this off - before this lock-out began, before he inked a retarded deal with NBC that guaranteed the NHL a whopping $0 for the equivalent of half a season for one team's worth of games, before he inflated the hockey market to absurd places in the sun-belt. I don't know what the answer is.
I do know that failure should never have been an option.
Perhaps the argument can be made that the owners are now on top - hell, I've practicaly made that argument already, myself - and we've heard all the rhetoric ad nauseum; "There are no winners in a lock-out situation"; "The real losers are the fans." But no two ways about it, the person in the role of primary responsibility simply cannot be allowed to continue.

What were they thinking in the first place?

The man has no hockey cred. Basketball, shmashketball. Basketball is a TV sport. Hockey is okay on TV - especially once you know the game and learn how to follow the puck without graphic aid - hell for a hockey fan, hockey is great on TV. But to a newcomer or to a fan, there is nothing like hockey in the arena. I'm a family-less man. I can go with friends who can afford to buy their own tickets. My girlfrined could care less, so I can leave her at home. I CAN'T AFFORD TO GO TO AN NHL GAME - and it's two friggin' SkyTrain stops away. I don't even have to pay to park! A Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay? You gotta be kidding me. And don't get me started about the Cup that went to Dallas... nope too late... (Dallas probably would have won in the end anyway, but YOU CAN'T change the rules in the middle of a season, let alone a playoff series, LET ALONE AN OVERTIME GAME WHEN THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS IN QUESTION!) The least bit of exploration can present further reasons that Bettman has been a total failure. He has failed at his mandate and must be removed.

A new Commissioner of hockey. Who? Well that one seems a no brainer to me, the only problem is that he'd have to relinquish his minority ownership of his team. It would probably also mean that he'd have to step-down as the head of the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team committee - that would probably be a conflict of interest. He knows hockey. He has a history with expanding hockey in the US. He has a track record of success after success. He has the respect of everyone within the game on and off the ice. He has compassion for us weak-ankled mortals who can't back-hand aso much as a compliment. His Dad is one of the most genuine people to walk the face of the planet, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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