The continuing CBA negotiations have seen the NHL cancel X number of games and even threaten the Winter Classic and All-Star games. The looming threat of a cancelled season has also been implied .
The players, for their part, have been equally willing to let paycheques go by, losing money while holding to their negotiating stance, willing partners, it would seem, in this game of chicken.
Each side has a list of what they consider their pressure points and those of their opponent. While we wait and watch for movement, it would seem that those pressure points are beginning to pass us by. Neither side wants to flinch or show to their opponent much opposition to the present course of action.
In public there is a great deal of consternation and hand-wringing that, but for the obstinance of their counterparts, they would gladly put this all behind them and get back to the game we all love so dearly.
One thing is being communicated to the public, while another is being communicated to the other side in the negotiations. Of course, it would be business suicide for either one to admit a kind of sad fatalism during talks, but the juxtaposition is sometimes comical.
It would appear, then, that the NHL and NHLPA have gotten themselves into a kind of potlatch.
A potlatch is a gift-giving festival of sorts amongst the Pacific Northwest Native tribes of North America, the Haida, Coast Salish, Tlingit, Tsimshian and others in that region. While for many the tradition involves those that have hosting a great festival for the redistribution of wealth to those that do not, in some tribes this festival evolved into a kind of ritualized sacrifice. The more powerful families or kinship groups, as well as those who sought to attain power, would use the potlatch as a display, wherein they would willingly sacrifice their asset wealth to illustrate their deep pockets and convictions. At times, the potlatch served the group in the same way that conspicuous consumption does today, to demonstrate wealth, or the appearance of wealth and status, by virtue of, at times, ruinous expense.
The NHL has a list, I believe, of their “pressure points” that they are willing to sacrifice in order to prove their point and win these negotiations according to their definition of success. These points are or have been:
The NHLPA, due to its very nature, obviously does not have the same number of ptions for self-sacrifice as the league and owners. However, they do have pressure points that the League is hoping to hit. They could best be summed up as:
Looking over these lists of “weak points” in the two opponents, one thing becomes tragically clear. There is no sacrifice listed that does not harm the fan and, by extension, the sport.
There is an African saying that I think applies to this situation: when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.