Okay, so apparently the system was never broken. If that is the case then, can the will of the NHLPA be?
Union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, as between members of a group or between classes, peoples, etc.: to promote solidarity among union members.
There is no doubt the NHLPA is making it crystal clear to everyone, including owners and fans of the hockey world, that despite the apparent lack of support, the entire players union is together on seeing this whole ordeal through to the end. However, what does that mean exactly in terms of what the individual players are willing to do outside of the collective to bring about a resolution? It was all fine when Donald Fehr stood at his last major press conference with the who’s who of players behind him. It was obviously a statement move. However, once the CBA deadline passed on September 15th, and the owners locked out those same players, what is the next move on the part of the PA?
WHO BLINKS FIRST
Now that both sides seem to be in a standoff, it’s a question of who has the wherewithal to carry through their threats to the point where the other side gets worn down and ‘blinks’ first. Like the picture to the left – who has the higher ground, and who is merely lying prone?
It’s safe to say that the NHL was the first to draw. They did what they said they would do if the players did not agree to the proposal given to them prior to the deadline. So now the ball seems to be in the NHLPA’s court, but what will they do with it? Do they even realize that it’s their move yet, or are they still waiting to hear from Bettman on a new deal, since he yanked the last one?
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly believes that the negotiation process is stalled because the owners can’t continue to throw out proposals with little to no feedback. It’s not productive to just keep saying “No, we want a deal that’s fair for both sides!” all the time.
"Obviously, we’ve got to talk before you can get a deal, so I think it’s important to get the talks going again," Daly said. “But you also have to have something to say. I think it’s fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players’ association in a meaningful way because I don’t think that they’ve really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now."
That seems like a logical line of thinking…
So of all those players that stood behind Fehr, who will be the ones to step forward and deliver the alternatives for the NHL owners to ponder over? There were a lot of blank stares on those faces, and that was after they had only delivered one proposal. That can’t be the end all, be all for the players can it?
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Obviously there is an ovious joke here regarding Bettman as nothing more than a snake, but I think what is more intriguing is that in the end, the NHLPA is going to be filled with a bunch of weasels.
As Flames fans, we have largely soured on the phrase, “Fool me once… Fool me twice…”, but this might also expand out to many of the players in the PA the longer this lockout goes on.
In 2004-05, the players stood by their union and lost, in the end accepting a deal that was worse than the one offered prior to being locked out. Is history destined to repeat itself? The longer this chapter drags on, the more evident that precedent is going to come back to haunt the players that are beginning to miss paychecks. The ironic part of this theatrical show that is bound to develop is that, for the most part, you sure aren’t going to see the who’s who of the NHLPA standing behind Donald Fehr at many press conferences anymore.
If anyone really wonders why that is, then just look at the fact that many of the players are scattering like mice to find work wherever they can now. What started off originally as a united front, has not taken long to degenerate into a looking out for #1 mentality. So it’s apparent that when the players say to the media that they “just want to play hockey”, they’re not feeding the fans a line. Maybe they should have lengthened the sound bite to include, “… even if it’s not in the NHL!”
What makes the situation more curious, and in my opinion, a lot more volatile, is that there just isn’t enough room in the various leagues around the world to accommodate the entire NHLPA. And even if there were space, there is no guarantee those players in the shallow end of the talent pool could ever find a team that wants them.
WHAT ABOUT ME???
Or can it?
One has to wonder just how cohesive the NHLPA is as a unit, once it gets down to brass tacks. It’s one thing for the upper echelon of the league to ride out a lock out while playing abroad, or for the up and comers to be given some refinement time in the AHL. But what happens to the middling and lower end players once the owners prove their point, yet again, that they are the ones holding all the cards.
As much as they want to maintain this united front in the public, just how long is it going to take before they start to turn on each other, and the resentment sets in? You can call it speculation or paranoia, or even chalk it up to, “What the hell do we know, we’re just the fans?” However, we are also not stupid.
There is a huge chasm even min salaries in the NHL, and when things start to get tight, what are players like Matt Stajan going to think when they are sitting at home reading FlamesNation articles about how they spent their summer vacation and the guys that they are supposedly united with are off in Europe cause, hey, they just wanna play hockey.
There are countless guys in the league who are in the same precarious position as Matt; where they have something to prove. They have a year or two left on a contract that they don’t deserve, and not a lot of teams that are going to be knocking on their door, begging for them to come join their organization. For these guys, it’s not just a monetary penalty that they are incurring: it’s a career jeopardizing gamble. How long will it take for these guys to be calling up Donald Fehr and saying, enough is enough. The grandstanding has to come to an end sooner or later, and the longer this charade is allowed to go on, because it’s a cause that is re-enforced by a group that has alternatives, the more it’s going to tear at the fabric that clothes the NHLPA.
It’s just not about who’s right and who’s wrong anymore. It’s not about what is or isn’t fair. Life’s tough all over and it’s just the way things are sometimes. Fans get angry when they say it’s just a bunch of millionaires fighting billionaires over who gets the bigger piece of the fan’s hard earned money. In reality the solution is in the criticism itself. You don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that the billionaires will always win that fight. In the end, the millionaires will go back to work with their tails between their legs, but it will be the fans that have suffered.