We can vividly recall the 2004-2005 NHL hockey season. At the time, your ol’ pal Wanye had an interest in a local watering hole.
A watering hole that was hugely dependant on local types walking in and saying "how about that local ice hockey squadron huh fellow patrons? Let’s all have an extra 1.7 beers each tonight and increase the average bill at this establishment by over $9 per tab."
That’s the way money is made and anyone who thinks that an NHL team doesn’t have an impact on the local economy can listen to Wanye’s Wallet™ circa 2004 still crying to this day. We were a young man in far over our head and the lack of NHL hockey almost put our fledgling business under as quickly as it began.
When the NHL season finally returned a full year later, the money began flowing back into the tills and the Oilers going to the Cup Final healed all financial wounds. But a great many were hurt by the year long strike including dozens of local liquor dispensing stations who couldn’t weather the storm and closed during this frightful time.
We bring up this tale of woe as we nervously note that the current CBA expires at the end of this season. As the NHL barrels headlong into its next CBA negotiations, we can’t help but wonder if they will prove just as nasty as the last time.
Take this recent quote by TSN for example, on the impact the Kovalchuk deal could have on larger relations between the NHL and the NHLPA.
"The NHL may well be in for a big fight as over the past few seasons they have reluctantly approved long-term, front-loaded deals to Marian Hossa, Chris Pronger, Henrik Zetterberg and Roberto Luongo. It is largely believed that the NHL has decided to take a stand with Kovalchuk as the first shot across the bow by the League as they prepare to re-negotiate the collective bargaining agreement which expires in 2011."
PREPARING FOR WAR
Ah the proverbial first shot across the bow. Getting enlistment levels up, selling war bonds, ordering hundreds of thousands of jaunty little caps like the one featured above.
In short: preparing for war.
As disastrous as the lost season was to the game of hockey – the NHL was the first pro sports league to lose an entire season to a labour dispute – we can’t help but think that the NHLPA is in even worse shape this time around.
Gone is the steady hand of NHLPA director Bob Goodenow, who oversaw both strikes in 1994 and 2004 before resigning in July 2005. Since that time the NHLPA executive has been a revolving door as successive rounds of infighting has left the SS NHLPA drifting without a Captain.
Goodenow’s successor Ted Saskin was fired in May 2007 following accusations that he had executive Ken Kim had covertly accessed players NHLPA email accounts. One can only imagine the sting of finding out the 1,305 forwarded chain emails from Chris Chelios wasn’t actually him reaching out to his playing brethren, but just Saskin and Kim playing the fools.
Once the rage and shock had subsided, the NHLPA named a committee of Michael Cammalleri, Chris Chelios, Shawn Horcoff, Eric Lindros and Robyn Regehr to name a successor.
LOOKING FOR THE 5 STAR GENERAL
They came up with the concept of a Paul Kelly – Boston lawyer, snappy dresser and non-covert email account accessor by all accounts. The highlight of his two year career was the monumental agreement between the NHLPA and the David Suzuki Foundation deciding to demand a $290 annual donation from over 500 NHL players to purchase carbon credits in order to offset their regular season travel.
Once the magnitude of this life changing accord set in, the 30 member NHLPA board decided to fire Kelly too, citing "(after) a long, exhausting and thoughtful debate, and thoughtful reasoning, a group of 30 engaged players made a decision that was overwhelmingly in favor of dismissal" NHLPA interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove told ESPN.com at the time.
"There was no one issue that you could point to. It was a combination of issues that have developed over a 21-month period that led the board to the conclusion that they just did not have the trust and confidence in Paul’s leadership going ahead."
Since then, the NHLPA has been led by a pair of interim Executive Directors including Ian Penny (Aug 31, 2009-Oct 30, 2009) and Mike Ouellet (October 31, 2009 – present.) Neither have done anything of any real note on behalf of the players and look as though they would basically get their asses handed to them if they tried to negotiate a new CBA.
This CBA expires at the end of the 2010-2011 season and the NHLPA has been doing little but fight amongst itself for the past 5 years. If the NHLPA views fighting the Kovalchuk deal as an initial shot across the bow in a later CBA negotiation and hasn’t even had the sense to hire a permanent Commander to lead the Fleet, we can’t help but weep for the future.
Imagine another massive strike?