The NHL lockout ‘celebrates’ its one month anniversary at midnight tonight. It is the first time the players will miss a paycheck from work (despite they will be getting an escrow check). It is now five days since the NHL regular season was due to start. During this time we have seen a number of games cancelled. The NHL website still has games appearing from October 25th on-wards, but chances are that these too will be cancelled before too long.
However, as the lockout has progressed and even Bill Daly coming out to say that he thinks the negotiations started a bit too late, here’s five things that, as a fan, have started to grate with me.
1) The NHL did not start its season in Europe this year, which is fine by me and I don’t really have an issue with that as such. The issue I do have is that the NHL decided not to open the season in Europe in March 2012, because of the expiry of the CBA and the “surrounding uncertainty”, which leads me to believe that the NHL knew it was headed for a lockout but chose to do nothing about it.
2) Start of the negotiations: Why didn’t the negotiations start earlier? Surely if the NHL knew that the CBA was going to present a threat to the start of the season it should have started negotiating earlier. Like said above, Bill Daly, has admitted that they “maybe started negotiating too late”.
3) The negotiations: The negotiations have been a farce so far. So many times I’ve read on my twitter feed from respected insiders and hockey journalists that the parties “met for two hours” or that “the parties have just finished negotiations and will return later today”. What kind of negotiations are these? There are people (other than players) out of work at the moment and it appears that the NHL and the NHLPA are in meetings where there’s no rush to get a deal done.
4) The breaks between negotiation: Seriously, in what other profession do you take breaks from negotiating a new deal when the employees are forced on lockout or are threatening to strike. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t government officials negotiate with unions on a 24/7 basis if there is a strike or a threat of a strike in order to avert it? But no. Let’s all take a week off to watch/play some golf before we can get back on the negotiating table
5) The PR war: It’s pathetic, really. NHL issuing statements saying it’s their number one priority to get the season started and NHLPA issuing videos with players saying how much they love the game and playing. Why don’t you just stop and get back around the table to negotiate.
Let me share a story with you about averting a strike/lockout. This happened in the 90s in Finland when I was still in school (I must’ve been either in 5th or 6th grade). There was a lot of talk about teachers going on strike and the teachers union was holding regular meetings with the relevant government appointed negotiator about pay and other things. At the beginning these meetings were taking place maybe once a day, until the threat of the strike was drawing near.
For a couple of days the negotiations were almost round the clock events with negotiators sometimes retiring from the days’ (note an actual day from the am to am at some stages) to avert the strike. It got to the point us pupils were given advice on what would happen during the strike, i.e. no school etc., a real kids’ dream. The strike was supposed to start on a Monday and the Friday prior, the teachers were sure that the strike would come round, but told us to keep an eye on the news ‘just in case’.
I was so sure that there would be a strike that I didn’t do my homework and spent the weekend playing outside, playing hockey or just playing video games. Though my parents said to do my homework that had been assigned on Friday, I was adamant that the strike would come round.
The negotiations went on throughout the weekend with the leaders of the talk only breaking to give status updates to the media at the time of the news. I remember that on Saturday the parties were “far away from each other”, but at Sunday during the ten o’clock news time the parties emerged from the negotiation rooms announcing that they had reached an agreement and that schools would go back in as normal on Monday. Imagine my disappointment at hearing that. It was 22:00 my homework was nowhere near finished and I’d have to go back to school as planned. What a drag.
However, the point I’m trying to make with that story is that no matter what other profession, the negotiations to avert a strike or keep it as short as possible go on throughout nights and parties meet daily, not when it suits them. The fact is, the way the negotiations have been going on, I don’t think that the NHL or NHLPA are in any hurry to put an end to the lockout, no matter how much it has already cost the teams in lost revenues.
How many times have we read about the talks between the NHL and NHLPA and learned that the meetings weren’t actually about the CBA, but other topics. Surely if the CBA is the issue preventing the league from starting that should be priority number one. Get the players and back office staff working and figure out everything else afterwards?
I don’t know, I might be barking at the wrong tree here, but as a disgruntled fan, I’m beginning to feel less and less enthused about the NHL and its product. I love hockey, don’t get me wrong, but the NHL is not the only league in the world.
If anyone has any ideas how the two parties can stay in the same room until this ridiculous lockout has been resolved, I’m all ears.