THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR NHL

The lockout has become equivalent to watching a soap opera. Try as you might, you just can’t turn away, and this week they likely sucked you back into their web of lies, deceit and unpredictability. I might have watched Days of our Lives when I was 19, mainly because of Jennifer, Carrie and Hope, but I also found myself getting sucked into their ridiculous story lines. I was amazed at how they could drag out one story line for months at a time. Sound familiar?

You didn’t have to watch the show daily to keep abreast of all the glorious backstabbing, love triangles and endless cheesiness, and that is exactly what the NHL lockout has become.

It is a guy’s soap opera.

Yesterday’s performance by Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman might have been their best work ever.

Fehr was the perfect villain. With the players flanked behind him like loyal soldiers, Fehr spoke calmly, yet confidently and managed to convince those who were watching that a deal was imminent.

Numerous times he mentioned the NHLPA believed that they had an agreement on various touchy issues, like "make whole." He had many fans and media members convinced a deal was close. His words caught most off-guard, because they expected him to come to the podium and rip the NHL. He did no such thing.

You can’t be a great villian in a soap opera without possessing the ability to convince people that your words are factual.

Fehr was brilliant.

He ended his first press conference by reiterating how close both sides were to a deal. When he walked away from the microphone you likely thought a deal would be brokered last night.

What happened next would have earned Fehr a nomination in the Daytime Emmy awards for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.

He walked away from the makeshift podium, with his players in unison behind him. The media rushed to interview the players, but within minutes they were being ushered back onto the stage. And now Fehr was once again in front of the microphone.

This was one of the best plot shifts I’ve seen in any drama series.

I was on air at the time, and watching it unfold on TV and on twitter was surreal. "What does this evil genius have up his sleeve," I said to myself. As you all know watching a soap opera alone and talking to the characters is a must.

And then Fehr dropped the hammer.

He informed the media and those watching at home that the league had rejected their offer, and then he uttered one of his more common lines, “It looks like this is not going to be resolved in the immediate future.”

"Shut the front door," said no one because it is the worst line in the history of commercials, but within minutes Fehr had taken your stomach on a devastating rollercoaster ride. I swear I heard some of the media sobbing, but that might have just been pumped in sound to make it better television.

EIther way it was awesome.

Fehr babbled on for another few minutes and said, "Previously we didn’t think we were nearly as far apart as the owners did, but I think it’s clear now after the positions the players took today that there doesn’t seem to be much room, certainly not unbridgeable room.”

It was the most disingenuous press conference I’ve ever seen. It fit perfectly with this soap opera script that has become the NHL. The twitterverse exploded with the majority of fans blaming the NHL.

Fehr’s plan had worked, or had it?

KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE

He should have just walked off the podium after his opening line of his encore performance, but he didn’t.  He spoke for another five minutes, and none of his comments grabbed at you like that opening line,  and then he and the players left. Fans were stunned, some of them tweeted words they’d regret later, the media in attention were speechless, albeit for only seconds, but that’s an eternity in a room of ink-stained wretches and talking heads. (Terms of endearment)

The only mistake NHL productions made was not ending the day with the Fehr cliffhanger. Could you imagine how crazy of a night it would have been if you had to wait until this afternoon to hear from Bettman. Of course the NHL isn’t great at dragging out things, so I’m sure that never crossed their mind.

Within 45 minutes Bettman and Bill Daly arrived at the podium.

This was a tense moment. I turned up the TV to ensure I wouldn’t miss one freakin syllable that emerged from the Count’s mouth.

The usually stoic and composed Bettman was visibly rattled. He didn’t hide his feelings, but instead he spoke with genuine emotion. He was almost trembling at times as he proceeded to blast Fehr for the next 26 minutes and 43 seconds. Yes Bettman and Daly spend almost 27 minutes expressing their frustration. And no one could take their eyes off of Bettman. This was his defining moment of the lockout. In those 27 minutes he managed to actually retrieve some sympathy for the hearts of fans.

You know you felt it. You know that for those 1600 seconds the man who has overseen three lockouts in the past 18 years, the man you despise, the man you think is ruining your game, got to you.

What a brilliant performance.

“That reminds me of the last time the players the players said we were close, and we were a billion dollars apart,” he fumed. “I don’t know why he (Fehr) did that … I find it almost incomprehensible that he did that."

Bettman exhaled and refocused. "I am disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight, and we’re going to have to take a deep breath and try to regroup."

He stayed on the podium until the media had no more questions. Never in the history of his tenure has Bettman outlasted the media’s questions. Maybe he teamed up with @nhlpodium to win over the hearts of fans. Maybe last night Bettman used the Podium to earn your trust, and yesterday he used that to gain your sympathy.

What was even more perplexing was near the end of his marathon podium appearance he uttered words I thought I’d never hear.

"We could have more franchises in jeopardy if we make the wrong deal," he said. He actually admitted that some NHL franchises are in jeopardy.

Soap operas couldn’t have written a better script. Bettman suggesting that his league wasn’t in perfect harmony? Are you freaking kidding me? I still don’t believe he uttered those words.

When Bettman took to the podium most believed he couldn’t possibly match Fehr. But boy were we wrong. He was intense, almost human-like and not only did he put the momentum back in the owner’s pockets, he also stole Fehr’s outstanding lead actor in a drama series award.

When he was done it wasn’t close in the eyes of some fans. These are just a few of the tweets I received after his award-winning performance.

At the end of the day, I think he’s endeared himself to Canadian hockey fans today, Fehr did not.

: I think Gary actually cares about the game. Can’t say the same for Fehr at all

I liked the passion and fight he showed. Players gonna regret it.

Never been a huge Bettmen guy but he made a ton of good points and killed it in that presser. Made Fehr look really bad

Clearly, you can never Count… Gary out. (That was for you, Gene Principe)

WHAT NOW?

Honestly, with this soap opera it is impossible to know. It is safe to say that Bettman will cancel games up to the end of December very soon. The NHL loves to make these announcements on Fridays so it could happen today. You haven’t seen the final offer either. All I know is that we are 36 days from the unofficial deadline of January 11th. Bettman wouldn’t give a set "drop dead" date when he was asked about one, but he did say, ""We played 48 games in 1995. I can’t imagine wanting to play fewer than that." 

I thought Scottie Upshall’s tweet was very telling.

There’s no pressure yet on the owners to lose this year, that’s why they still treat us like Cattle. They’ll need a partner come January.

The NHLPA still believes the NHL will come back with a better offer. We’ll see.

All I know is that this lockout has become the sportsfan’s soap opera. As painful and as predictable as it is, we can’t look away.

DAY FIVE

Yesterday we raised another $1,900 for the Santas Anonymous. Big thanks to Jason for his generous bid on the Rush VIP  Package.

Today’s package includes…

  • A signed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blue and orange jersey.
  • The jersey will be framed courtesy of proamsports.ca
  • A party for 10 at the Pint.
  • A pair of gold seats to Oilers game in 2013.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

 

  • 24% body fat

    Bettman finally admitted that the NHL business model is broken.

    Will a 50/50 spit in revenue and a change in contract terms save it?

    I think it might buy them a few years but changes are a coming for border line players.

  • B S

    J.G., What were the proposals? (you know, the actual point of these negotiations) as, from what I’ve heard, the NHL and NHLPA really weren’t that far apart.

  • mr_nihilism

    Yes.
    I went mentally from 65 owners 35 players support to hoping Gary sees Upshall serving his fries some day. Maybe I’m a bit of a sucker emotionally in this respect, but why not I’m allowed.

    Thanks Jason. Good read.

  • 24% body fat

    Put two proposals out, one buy the NHL and one buy the NHLPA, and let the fans vote.

    Gary should put the original 57 – 43 split back on the table (in favour of the owners) and no make whole, with all the contract limits and say take it or we cancel. Bold move, but it would be interesting.

    Is anyone still on the players side. And I Dont mean people who are closely linked to one player. I have a cousin who is a very substantial Canadian hockey player. I have never met him but other family members have, but I still think he is extremely well paid, and still do not see their side of things.

    • if it was for 1 year maybe. the point is that the players (and the league) are trying to create long term sustainability. saying take it or we cancel just means its canceled and that wouldnt be the players fault.

      • 24% body fat

        hey I agree, but it is not even about faithful negotiations anymore. All signs and information from last night, whether you call it a credible source or not points to the top end players and Fehr, pushing for more after an agreement was implied.

        Saying it would be an interesting game for Bettman to play.

        If he did that it could go two ways. The players who dont have their voice heard either unite, or they demand the agreement last night be brought back and ratified.

        One thing is. This mess would all be over in a week. Season canceled or not.

        Also, if the players decertify the owners should defranchise and incorporate, with each of them holding shares based on their teams values. Bettman becomes CEO and tell team directors (former owners) what the spending limit is.

  • mr_nihilism

    Blow it up in glorious manner. Start from scratch.

    I know that won’t happen of course. But it’s pretty much how I feel about it these days.

    Edit: Oh, and FIST