Airing the grievances with the NHL on Festivus
NHL and NHLPA, we have a lot of problems with you people and now you're going to hear about it.
At this point, it looks like it's going to take a Festivus miracle for the NHL to get its act together and salvage what's left of the 2012-13 season. Though, by the time it starts it, it will simply be known as the 2013 season since 2012 is already lost.
Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner
Oh, Gary. Gary. Gary. Gary.
I remember sitting at a press conference in New Jersey before a Stanley Cup Final game -- the press conference in which you bragged about the NHL's record revenues of nearly $3.3 billion and its sizable growth -- when you were asked about the possibility of a lockout after the season due to the expiring CBA.
You responded with a grin and said you "didn't understand both the speculation and the degree of negativity that it connotes," before finishing with "If somebody is suggesting it, it's either because there's something in the water, people still have the NBA and NFL on the brain, or they're just looking for news on a slow day. It's nothing more than speculation at this point. There can't be any substance to it because there haven't been any substantive conversations."
Seven months later, we're 99 days into the third lockout of your tenure, one that has already cost the league 626 games, plus its two signature events (the Winter Classic and the NHL All-Star Weekend). Add in the previous two lockouts, and the league has lost more than 2,000 games (and what amounts to two full seasons … and perhaps still counting) during your watch as commissioner.
That's a resume that no other commissioner in professional sports can come close to matching.
But even though you've been the common denominator in all three work stoppages, it's not all your fault.
NHL owners, all 29 of them
You, the NHL owners, the people whom Gary Bettman supposedly works for, haven't exactly been on your best behavior, either. This is your lockout as much as it is Gary Bettman's. While you were busy talking about how the previous CBA just didn't work for you and how you had to stop spending so much money, you guys spent the months leading up to the expiration of the CBA -- the one that you claimed didn't work for you anymore -- signing as many players as you possibly could to long-term contracts in an effort to get your players signed under the old CBA. The one that wasn't working.
On the Friday before the old CBA expired, you guys handed out $100 million in new contracts. In the month before the expiration of the CBA, you guys spent more than $400 million. That included an outrageous, four-year, $20 million contract for a 36-year-old Shane Doan in Phoenix, a team that doesn't even have an owner to call its own.
You're unhappy with long-term contracts, yet Craig Leipold in Minnesota signed the top two free agents last summer to matching 13-year(!) contracts, while Philadelphia signed restricted free-agent Shea Weber to a 14-year offer sheet.
Bad joke, man. Bad. Joke.
And that's to say nothing of your initial proposal to the players that was so laughably bad (nobody expects the first offer to be great, or one that will even be accepted -- it's all part of negotiating, I guess) that the process seemed doomed even before it started.
Donald Fehr and the NHLPA
Remember those legal disputes in Alberta and Quebec with the labor boards in an effort to block the lockout? The ones in which the labor boards ruled in favor of the NHL?
Complete waste of time that could have been spent actually trying to negotiate.
And let's not forget that when the NHLPA submitted its three separate proposals to the league in November -- the ones that were rejected within 10 minutes -- the NHLPA apparently didn't even bother to run the numbers on one of them before submitting it.
Then there was that two-day stretch earlier this month, when people had a glimmer of optimism that maybe, just maybe, a deal was within striking distance when you spoke to the press and basically announced that you were all pretty much agreed on the financial aspects of a new CBA. Then you had to return to the podium 15 minutes later and announce that it was rejected, only to have the league step up a few minutes later and call the deal "completely unacceptable."
Fake Hockey Insiders
And now for the Feats of Strength. Festivus isn't over until somebody can beat down John Scott. Then again, we will probably be here a while.
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