Saturday, June 04, 2005

 

Remember Who Brought You To The Dance...

"Progress was absolutely accomplished yesterday. It was great day for the process," said a source close to the scene.

And that is all we are getting right now from the meetings...the closer they get, the less we get..

Now for my Saturday Rant....

There is a concern I have, that I don't believe many people quite see yet. Maybe it is because I have been a therapist of sorts for the NHL. Everyday I field calls and e-mails from people on both sides of the fence. I get to talk to so many interesting and positive people. What this blog has done is more fascinating then what it says...(I'll wait for my critics to stop applauding)

I am refuge of sorts. The people who have written me e-mails and contacted me are the ones who are absolutely dying without the sport. Broadcasters. writers, and TV producers who have given their lives to making every puck drop magic. Players who dreamed of playing in the show. Some who are yet to see that reality. Some who have seen it and had it from them. Executives and coaches who all echoed the sentiment, "once the lockout is over, then we can fix the game." And of course fans who live for the sport. I basically have an inbox and address book of the most passionate people in our sport. As I move forward after the lockout, and people can reveal their names and talk again, I have some big plans to utilize the passion of my friends and help make this sport recognized for what it is...but that's another story...

If you read my blog once or twenty times a day you are a like I am. A Hockey Masochist. Wanting to ride the roller coaster and waiting out twelve hour meetings for six word answers. Fortunately I can talk to enough people that hear six words of their own and piece together a sketch of what goes on. Yesterday when I had a chat at 4pm, it was absolute chaos the room maxed out at 200 people capacity by 4:03...I venture to say we would have had 500 people in there...

And that is when my concern became reality. I mentioned the fact that I had talked to some players and they were saying basically. "If the NHL doesn't try and crush us we'll have a deal soon." I spoke of my theory that in a negotiation when you have the upper hand, as the NHL has since the beginning, you need to give the other party something they can hang their hat on. It is just good business. Especially when you have to work with that person. The NHL knows this. But one player whose spirits are so low said, "This isn't a negotiation, it is a surrender."

You can blame who you want to for where we are...both sides have made mistakes. But none of that really matters now, because here we are....

My concern came with the response I got from saying the NHL will need to throw the PA a bigger bone and allow the PA to feel that they got something out of this "experience."

The reaction was very telling. Almost everyone in the room started typing in caps and basically saying, "THE PLAYERS DON'T DESERVE ANYTHING . THE PLAYERS ARE GREEDY. THE PLAYERS SHOULD BE CRUSHED." I began to see the bigger issue. The NHL fans have displaced their anger on the players themselves. The anger at the NHLPA's strategy is actually anger directed at the players. Aren't players the reason we want hockey back. That chasm will need to be breached quickly when this is done.

The players sin is loyalty. Loyal to Goodenow for good reason. He did make them alot of money over the last ten years. You would be loyal too. However, in the opinion of many, Bob played this situation completely wrong. He was facing an angry and bitter opposition. A group who could absolutely wait longer than the players and had decided long ago they would. And yet Bob simply thought they wouldn't and when he finally realized he was wrong his only plan appeared to be to "wait longer." Bob was coaching "not to loose" and the only proactive move, the 24% rollback, while a very generous offer, wasn't the kind of win the owners were holding out for. It didn't police themselves. I have huge problems with that as well, but the NHLPA should have realized what they were dealing with. The NHL owners were willing to cancel a season and risk everything over a salary cap that they didn't have to spend. I have to admit, I didn't see that one coming either.

But this is the bottom line. The NHL player himself is what we all long for. And the NHL player, as Larry Brooks writes in today's Post is "in the dark."

We have all gotten caught up in taking sides...pro owner, pro player..(hey it's the only game in town) to the point where we forget how much we love these guys when they are on the ice. You have never once seen Bettman or Daly say one bad thing about the NHL player. From a top source, "The NHL has a total admiration and respect for our players. Once business is out of the way we have marketing plans in place to make these players the stars they deserve to be and to make their talents the focal point once again."

But from the fans I sense an actual anger towards the actual NHL player. People feeling the players deserve to get NOTHING as some sort of punishment.

I really feel with the work that Linden, Shanahan, Gartner, Guerin and have accomplished in the last month or so, that the fans should cut them some slack. These guys are the heroes of this lockout. They are the reason this is almost behind us. They are the ones who are finding the way around the barriers. They are working round the clock on solutions. They are very proactive in a very sticky spot.

Right now, on the Saturday morning of June 4th, it is the NHL player that is saving the NHL....And you should know that...



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